When you decided to end your marriage, you may have felt certain about some things and a bit anxious or unsure about others. For instance, if you have children, you might immediately have begun thinking about their future—where they will live, whether you should share custody with your ex, etc., as well as their financial needs. While you may have felt certain that you want to file for a divorce in a North Carolina court, you may also have worried about the expense of it.
If finances are a primary concern of yours, you’ll be glad to know that there are alternatives available that enable you to secure a divorce without litigation, which is typically the most expensive path toward settlement. Both arbitration and mediation are often effective alternatives for spouses who are looking for the most economically feasible means for accomplishing their legal goals. It’s helpful to learn more about each alternative to determine which best fits your needs.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
There’s a good chance that you and your spouse might disagree about issues that are relevant to settling your divorce. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for a pair of spouses to disagree about property division, child custody, issues concerning a family pet and many other things. Just because you disagree, however, doesn’t mean you have to go to court to resolve the issue. Alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration or mediation, may work for you.
ADR is typically a less expensive way to settle a divorce. Such options also focus on non-confrontational discussion, as opposed to litigation, which is often more stressful and not always peaceful. There are several key differences between arbitration and mediation.
Mediation is the least expensive and takes less time
Mediation may be a viable option for you if you and your former partner get along well enough to discuss important matters and work together to resolve differences without emotional outbursts or arguments. This form of ADR usually takes less time and costs less than other divorce settlement processes.
One of the main differences between mediation and arbitration (or litigation) is that it is not legally binding unless you request a consent order from the court. A neutral party is present for mediation sessions, helping to facilitate discussion and keeping things on track. A mediator guides both parties but does not make decisions on their behalf.
Arbitration allows for judgments
Because spouses themselves are the ones making all the decisions in a mediated divorce, there are no legal judgments being made. In this way, arbitration is more like litigation in that it is legally binding without a consent order and allows judgments to be made by the arbitrator. To understand an arbitrator’s role in a divorce settlement, you can think of this person as a private judge, although a person fulfilling this role does not necessarily have to be an actual judge.
You might agree to have an accountant or attorney act as an arbitrator in your divorce. There are others who can carry out the duty as well. While mediation is basically discussion sessions where you and your ex share your needs and opinions to resolve all issues and agree on a settlement, arbitration is more like litigation in that you each can present evidence and enlist support from witnesses.
Arbitration and mediation are both private matters
If you enter litigation to settle a divorce, all proceedings are a matter of public record. In addition to saving time and money, one of the benefits of ADR is that both arbitration and mediation are private processes. Therefore, if you wish to maintain confidentiality regarding your settlement, ADR might be a better choice for you than settling your divorce in a North Carolina courtroom.