Couples who are wealthy or own a significant amount of property often face issues in divorce which are much different than couples who have more modest means. Normal divorce issues like splitting up assets to deciding on parenting time and child support are much more complicated when the couple is dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and debts.
For many high-asset couples, attending multiple divorce hearings in full view of the public is undesirable, to say the least. Couples who are worth a lot of money may not want to have their private lives on display for anyone else in the courtroom, and may be unwilling to discuss their finances in an open setting. For these people, hiring a private arbitrator to decide their divorce fixes both of these problems.
Arbitrators act like a private judge who has the power to decide contentious issues in a divorce. In many instances, professional arbitrators actually are retired judges or attorneys who devote part of their free time to conducting arbitrations.
Arbitration is only available when both spouses agree to submit their case to an arbiter. Like any other divorce case, couples have the option of deciding some issues themselves, or letting the arbitrator decide for them. An arbitrator’s decision is binding, just like the judge’s decision in court, and both parties must agree to abide by the ruling.
Benefits of Arbitration for High-Income Divorces
Many people who choose to have their divorce handled in arbitration do so because the process is much quicker and less time consuming than are traditional divorces. Whereas a traditional divorce may require weeks or even months of hearings, meetings, and negotiations, an arbitration is over very quickly.
In addition to speed, couples who are business owners or who manage complex financial matters can choose a mediator who is an expert in a particular field. For example, if a couple jointly owns a business worth several million dollars, an arbitrator with experience in corporate law may be able to divide the company more fairly or evenly than could a family law judge with little business experience.
Finally, arbitration is a much more private process than is a traditional divorce. The arbitration hearings are conducted off the record, and evidence discovered during arbitration usually cannot be used as evidence in another case. Instead, the only part of the divorce which will be visible to the public is the actual divorce decree, which must be recorded in the public record.
While arbitration works out well for many high-income couples, divorcing spouses should be aware that arbitration is relatively final, and a person who is unhappy with the arbitrator’s decision will have few options to change the outcome of the case. Unless a spouse can prove that issues like fraud or duress affected the outcome of the arbitration, divorcing couples should realize that the arbitrator will have the last word on issues like child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division.
Arbitration can help divorcing couples keep the cost of litigation down while avoiding lengthy and public courtroom battles. In order to be successful in arbitration, you need an attorney experienced with alternative dispute resolution techniques by your side. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys use arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce techniques in order to help divorcing spouses create a divorce settlement which fits each person’s needs.
To learn more about arbitration, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.