Know the Difference: Mediation vs Arbitration


Divorce can be a painful and difficult process for everyone involved, and couples who decide to end their marriage often find themselves facing a mountain of decisions to be made. There is the division of property and assets, custody of any children, child support, and countless other financial matters.

In all 46 counties of South Carolina, civil cases must go through an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to resolve some of these issues. 

As a way to settle disagreements, pursuing ADR has many advantages. It saves parties the stress, the time, and the costs that come with litigation. 

Arbitration and mediation are two common forms of ADR that can be used in divorce proceedings. Both methods offer a more collaborative and less adversarial approach to resolving disputes than traditional litigation. However, there are some key differences between the two methods that can make one more appropriate than the other, depending on the situation.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration involves the two parties hiring a neutral third-party qualified arbitrator to hear both sides of the dispute and make a final, legally binding decision on the issue. The arbitrator’s decision is usually based on the evidence presented by both parties. 

Arbitration can be faster and less expensive than traditional litigation, while still relying on a separate individual to make the decision. Though it is less formal than going to court, the process is more structured than mediation. 

Those who choose arbitration also feel they have control over the process, as they decide where and when the hearing takes place, as well as the issues discussed.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation, on the other hand, involves hiring a neutral third-party mediator who works with both parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Unlike arbitration, mediation is not binding, and the mediator does not make a final decision. Instead, the mediator helps the parties communicate and negotiate with each other to find common ground and reach a resolution that works for everyone.

Like arbitration, mediation saves both time and money compared to going to court. The mediation process also allows for more honest and open communication, giving the two parties space to reach agreements on the issues at hand. 

Because agreements reached through the mediation process are decided upon by the parties, the process has been shown to result in more lasting decisions.

Which Is Best For Your Family?

When it comes to divorce, mediation is often seen as the preferred method of alternative dispute resolution. This is because mediation allows couples to work together to find a solution that works for both of them, rather than having a decision imposed on them by an arbitrator. Mediation also tends to be less formal and less confrontational than arbitration, which can help reduce the stress and emotional toll of divorce on both the parents and the children.

However, there are situations where arbitration may be a better option. For example, if there is a particularly complex issue that the parties cannot agree on, or if there is a power imbalance between the parties, arbitration may be a more appropriate method of resolving the dispute. Additionally, if one or both parties are concerned about the length of the divorce process or the unpredictability of going to court, arbitration may be a more appealing option.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use arbitration or mediation in a divorce case will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. If you are unsure which method is best for your situation, reach out to speak with us here. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to approach the divorce process with a willingness to communicate and compromise in order to achieve a fair and equitable resolution.

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