What happens at an arbitration hearing?
In arbitration, the parties have the flexibility to tailor the process to best suit their needs.
Sometimes, this could involve only written documents and arguments, with each side filing an affidavit detailing their evidence, followed by written arguments. At other times, parties might opt for an arbitration hearing. These hearings are less formal than court, often occur in boardrooms without any observers, and may involve live witnesses questioned by each side, while the arbitrator observes.
Participants typically dress formally in business attire, but unlike court proceedings, neither the arbitrator nor any attending lawyers wear robes. The arbitrator is referred to by their last name, not as 'your honour' as you would in court.
Live evidence, if present, may necessitate a court reporter to record the proceedings. This record (also known as a transcript) can be ordered by the parties for an extra cost if they wish to do so.
Once the hearing concludes or the necessary written arguments have been filed with the arbitrator, the arbitrator prepares a formal written decision called the arbitration award, similar to a court order. Upon service and effectiveness of the arbitration award, parties are legally bound to comply with it. Any failure to abide by the terms of the award could lead the opposing party to seek court enforcement.
Family law arbitration can be an efficient and effective way to settle disputes related to divorce, child custody, child support, and other family law issues. It’s less formal and adversarial nature which often makes it less stressful for the parties involved. Moreover, it's a more private and potentially less expensive alternative to traditional court proceedings.
However, it's important to note that family law arbitration may not suit everyone. Parties should carefully assess their dispute's specific circumstances and consult with a family lawyer before deciding on this path.