There are various ways to reach a settlement in a divorce without having a trial before a judge. One of those alternative ways is through arbitration. According to Nolo Press Occidental, the arbitrator is the decision-maker in resolving all the issues that are given to him or her. Arbitration is a voluntary process where you and your spouse agree to submit some or all of the issues to a trained, experienced, neutral third party. The third party is paid by both spouses to hear and decide their case and make an award that is binding on both parties.
The arbitrator’s decision is made in much the same way that a judge would make a decision. However, arbitration is less formal than a court proceeding. Arbitration is voluntary. The court cannot order the parties to submit to arbitration. The parties both pay for the services of the arbitrator, unlike a trial where there is no cost for the judge to hear your case.
The arbitrator administers oaths and can issue subpoenas. They can issue an order requiring discovery. They can allocate the arbitration fees between the parties and entering an order, requiring the parties to produce information that the arbitrator considers relevant and helpful in resolving the issues. After the arbitrator is appointed, the arbitrator meets with the parties and the attorneys to consider the scope of the issues, the date and time of the hearing, the list of witnesses and the schedule for exchanging experts.
There are advantages and disadvantages to arbitration. The advantage is that a binding decision is made by the arbitrator much the same as a judge would make. The disadvantage is that the decision of the arbitrator cannot be appealed to the Court of Appeals, where a decision by a judge can be appealed. Whether a particular case is appropriate for arbitration is determined on a case by case basis.