If you or your former spouse have filed for divorce, you may be dreading constant court appearances or a lengthy trial. Perhaps you are concerned that there are unique factors in your situation that will make it difficult, under normal Colorado divorce law, for the court to come to a fair decision. If so, you may get faster, more satisfying results if you resolve your divorce through arbitration.
What is Arbitration?
There are three ways in which divorces are settled – litigation before a family court judge, mediation, and arbitration. The big difference between mediation and arbitration is this: during the mediation process, a third-party will work with both sides to come to an agreement on all disputes. However, neither party has to agree or accept the results of mediation. Even if they do, the results can be later appealed.
Arbitration offers a more comprehensive means for resolving legal disputes outside of the courtroom. In this case, you and your spouse agree to hire an arbitrator together. The arbitrator organizes individual sessions, listens to both of you, and then presents the demands from another 'side.' Such professionals can help you reach common grounds to resolve your case. The final decisions made during arbitration are legally binding, just as a judge's ruling would be in court.
In fact, they may be more binding, as decisions reached through arbitration can only be appealed in unique circumstances.
In Colorado, arbitration is covered by the Colorado Uniform Arbitration Act that provides a significant level of detail about the rights, obligations, and provisions of arbitration. Thus, anyone considering arbitration needs to have an attorney explain all of the regulations that will apply under the law. These are important to understand before you agree to proceed with divorce arbitration. Once your agreement is recorded in court, there is no turning back.
Should You Pursue Divorce Arbitration in Colorado?
Generally, arbitration is a good option when you know that you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse through mediation, or when you do not want a public setting for your disputes and issues. When considering this route, carefully weigh in on the pros and cons of arbitration.
- Arbitration is informal and may provide a way to press your case outside of the formal structures of a court setting.
- You prevent lengthy court battles that increase legal fees and court costs. Once the parties have agreed upon a date, things can move quite quickly.
- Arbitration is convenient for both parties as they can schedule their session(s) at times that work for both of them.
- Arbitration is final. Once the arbiter has made their final decision, the divorce process is over.
- Arbitration is private. Courts are public places, and there may be spectators. One or both parties may not want their “dirty laundry” aired in public or in front of a judge.
- Divorce arbitration is not the result of the agreement of both parties. It is an imposed decision by a third-party. One or both parties may not ultimately be happy with the result.
- As a common rule, the decisions made during arbitration are final, and there is little-to-no possibility of appeal. In litigation and mediation, decisions can be appealed.
If you are considering arbitration, you must get the advice of a good family law attorney, so you understand precisely what you are getting into. Tolison & Williams firm has a long and successful history of providing arbitration advice and counsel. You don't need to go into arbitration without substantial preparation.