Family Law Arbitration is a private case settlement technique to resolve family law matters.
Unlike litigation, arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that resolves a legal dispute without the necessity of a contested trial in Family Court. The arbitrator is a neutral third-party that considers the information and evidence presented by the disputing parties and then issues a decision, which is then confirmed by the court. It is growing in popularity in family law matters, including divorce, child custody, alimony/spousal support, child support, distribution of marital property, and other types of issues.
Although arbitration is similar to a trial — with the two disputing parties presenting evidence, testimony, and experts with their lawyers present — it is generally a much faster and often less expensive approach to obtaining resolving their disputes. J. Benjamin Stevens is a certified family law arbitrator, and our office has plenty of room in which to conduct arbitrations, while still affording each party private conference rooms when necessary.
Having practiced in the Family Court for two decades, Mr. Stevens understands the needs of individuals and families, and he understands the way that arbitration can help individuals and families resolve divorce, support, custody, and other issues in an efficient and amicable manner. Put another way, he understands the sensitive nature of life-changing circumstances that arise when individuals are faced with family and matrimonial legal issues, and as an arbitrator, he will work to resolve these issues as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Overview of the Family Law Arbitration Process
Arbitration in South Carolina is a completely voluntary process, so the first step is for the parties and their attorneys to agree to resolve their case in this manner. Before the arbitration begins, the attorneys consult with the agreed-upon arbitrator to discuss and agree upon the details of the arbitration, including the date(s) upon which it will take place, the rules that will apply, who may attend and testify, and other related matters. At the arbitration hearing, cases are presented similar to a court proceeding, subject to the guidelines agreed upon by the parties. At the conclusion of the arbitration process, the arbitrator issues a final binding decision, that will then confirmed by the Family Court.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Family Law Arbitration
Compared to litigation, arbitration generally offers an expeditious and less expensive approach that ensures closure for both parties. Further, the parties have the ability to select and agree upon the best person to decide the issues in their case, on a convenient date, for a sufficient length of time, in a private location. When comparing that to having your case being decided by whichever judge ends up hearing your case, on a date that may or may not be convenient, for a length of time that may or may not be adequate, in a public courtroom – the advantages of arbitration become obvious.
However, it is important for parties to remember that arbitration is a binding process. It does not allow parties to control the outcome in the way the mediation does. Further, arbitration generally does not provide the same cost and time savings nor does it allow the disputing parties to benefit from the problem-solving, relationship-building processes involved in mediation. It is up to the parties and their attorneys to determine what approach makes the most sense in their specific situation: arbitration, mediation, or a blend of the two. In a blended mediation / arbitration, the parties agree (before starting) that the neutral third party will initially act as a mediator to help them resolve their disputes through mediation, but if they are unable to do so, the mediator will have the ability to declare and impasse and then arbitrate the remaining issues. Thus, the parties get the benefit of both approaches and are guaranteed a resolution of their dispute.
Contact Us for Experienced Arbitration Services
If you are seeking to resolve your family law dispute in a more efficient and less confrontational manner, you are welcome to have your attorney contact our office at (864) 598-9172 to discuss having Mr. Stevens arbitrate your case.