Sometimes, when divorce looks likely, spouses explore alternatives to traditional litigation, and the most frequently utilized options are mediation and arbitration. But what’s the difference between the two?

In terms of divorce, the process of mediation takes place when two spouses (with or without counsel) meet with a mediator. The goal is a separation agreement and a mutually agreed upon decision regarding how their marital issues will be resolved. The mediator’s function is to help both parties come to an agreement, but the mediator isn’t always a divorce lawyer, nor do they share the same responsibilities. Mediators don’t need to educate you about the legal system or advocate for the best outcome or client’s interests. They just need to create an agreement, which is why they’re generally cheaper than attorneys. At any point during mediation, either party can get up and walk away.

Arbitration is different, and it’s less common. An arbitrator is similar to a judge and, in fact, judges do sometimes act as arbitrators. With this process, both parties sign a contract ahead of time agreeing to be bound to the terms of the arbitration. This means that walking away from the arbitration process is absolutely not an option. On the one hand, arbitration can be useful in that both parties are committed to a result taking place and not being drawn out. But on the other hand, during arbitration, you voluntarily relinquish a certain amount of control. During arbitration, both parties can have attorneys present if they wish.

Which option is best for your situation? Well, that depends on the specifics of your situation. We strongly recommend talking to an attorney before committing to anything. By doing so, you can make sure you fully understand all of the advantages and disadvantages and make an informed choice.