Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method that allows for parties to have their family law issues resolved without going to court.
North Carolina’s Family Law Arbitration Act (N.C.G.S. 50-41) allows couples to choose to arbitrate any or all issues arising from a separation or divorce, except for divorce itself. This can include any or all of the following issues: Equitable Distribution, Alimony, Child Support, or Child Custody. Arbitration is not a mandatory requirement and is something that the parties must mutually agree to before submitting an issue to an arbitrator. The parties agree to submit an issue or issues to a neutral third-party arbitrator, who acts almost like a private judge by hearing evidence and providing a binding or non-binding decision. The parties typically share the cost of the arbitrator unless their agreement allows the arbitrator to allocate the costs differently.
South Carolina has not adopted a family-law specific arbitration act like North Carolina, but parties may mutually agree to utilize arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution for property and alimony issues under the Uniform Arbitration Act, which South Carolina has adopted. South Carolina case law has held that it is not permissible to submit child custody and child support issues to binding arbitration with no right to judicial review. Child custody and child support issues may (or, when there is a lawsuit pending, must) be submitted to mediation as an alternative dispute resolution prior to trial. In South Carolina, arbitrators can be certified by South Carolina’s Board of Arbitrator and Mediator Certification, but parties can choose an arbitrator who is not certified by the Board. All arbitrators must follow the Alternative Dispute Resolutions Court Rules and the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators that South Carolina has adopted.
In arbitration, parties have a private trial in front of an arbitrator who issues a binding or non-binding decision that the parties must then follow. Similar to a trial in front of a judge, the parties present documentary evidence and testimony, and then the arbitrator (instead of a judge) issues a decision. An arbitrator can issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear and for production of documents or records needed. The arbitrator administers oaths for witnesses to testify and can take depositions, if needed. You can and should be represented by the attorney of your choosing during arbitration.
Benefits of Arbitration
Disadvantages of Arbitration
If you are interested in arbitration or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, please reach out to our office. As a firm, we focus on out-of-court resolutions for our clients and arbitration is a great option for many clients. Lindsey is available and qualified to mediate or arbitrate your case in North Carolina or South Carolina.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC