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The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Four

The fourth option for divorce is Arbitration, which is quite different from our first three options.  The Kitchen Table Divorce is casual, creative, quick and inexpensive.  Mediation is a cooperative effort between individuals to reach a mutual agreement based on consensus and compromise.  Collaborative Divorce provides you with a team of professionals that rally and support you, ensuring that all your needs are met.  Though Arbitration is similar to mediation, it is more like litigation in that the parties present their respective positions, evidence, testimony and witnesses to a trial of fact.

Arbitration is a settlement technique in which a third party reviews the case and imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides.  The arbitrator may be a retired judge, an experienced trial lawyer, or some other professional selected from a panel of competent arbitrators, such as the American Arbitration Association.  Arbitration can be either voluntary or mandatory and can be either binding or non-binding.  The principal distinction between mediation and arbitration is that whereas a mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground on which to compromise, the (non-binding) arbitrator remains totally removed from the settlement process and will only give a determination of liability.

Arbitration is most commonly used for the resolution of commercial disputes, but it is desirable in divorce cases when agreement cannot be reached but the parties still wish to save the costs and expenses of litigating through the usual judicial system, which has built-in delays and attendant increased costs.  The Los Angeles County Superior Court sponsors an arbitration program and a “Rent-A-Judge program wherein retired Superior Court judges are available as arbitrators, or will sit as judges on a private basis.  But we’ll talk more about Rent-A-Judge in a later post.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation

In Plain English

Two children are in the kitchen fighting over an orange.  Their father walks in, sees what’s going on and decides to put an end to it.  He grabs the orange from their hands, puts it on the chopping block, cuts it in half and gives half to his son and half to his daughter.

Both children burst into tears.  Astonished, the father turns to his son and says, “Johnny, why are you crying?”
“I wanted the whole orange!”  Johnny says, sobbing.
“You can’t have the whole orange, there’s only one orange.  You have to share it with your sister.  Stop crying.”  Then he turns to his daughter and says, “Suzy, why are you crying?”
Suzy sniffles and says, “Daddy, I didn’t want the orange at all.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I only wanted the peel.  I need it for an icing recipe for a cake I just baked.  But I have to have the whole peel.”
The father scratches his beard, thoughtfully.  “You only wanted the outside of the orange?”
Suzy nods her head sadly, a fat tear dripping from her chin.  “Yes.”
“Can Johnny have the inside of the orange?”
Her eyes widen and she bounces on her toes.  “Yes!”
“Johnny? Will you give your sister the orange peel if she lets you have the inside of the orange?”
Little Johnny’s face brightens and he clasps his hands together.  “Yes! Of course! I didn’t even want the crummy old peel!”

***

The truth about litigated divorce is that the judge doesn’t have the time, the inclination or the imagination to find out what your interests are.  When you get a traditional, litigated divorce, you get distributive bargaining.  The judge is following the law.  He’s lead by the rules and the statutes.

With Collaborative Divorce, as well as with mediation or The Kitchen Table Divorce, there is creativity and imagination.  Your wants, your needs, and your fears are heard, acknowledged, and understood.  Your spouse’s wants and needs and fears are heard, acknowledged and understood.  It’s impossible to be angry or hateful towards someone you understand.

You went into your marriage with love.  If you’re getting a divorce, you have the opportunity to reorganize your life with love.  It’s your choice.