What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process that allows for the parties to a dispute to submit their dispute to an agreed upon independent third party, who is commonly referred to as the arbitrator. The arbitrator conducts a hearing (or a series of hearings) that allows for each party to present evidence, testimony and arguments. The hearing is conducted outside of the court room setting.

Why is arbitration preferred over the trial Judge that is assigned to your case?

In the State of Georgia, the Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction. Superior Court Judges are called upon to hear a variety of civil, criminal, and family cases. Very few Superior Court Judges in Georgia have experience in the area of family law. The Judge assigned to your case may lack the knowledge that is needed to arrive at an appropriate, and lasting remedy. Parties to a family law dispute are better served if they are able to select a decision maker that understands family law, and the emotional dynamics that come with a divorce or contested custody case.

Arbitration allows for parties and attorneys to better manage their case. Arbitrators are easily accessible, and can hear matters at the convenience of the parties. It is often difficult to access the Superior Court Judge that has been assigned to your case. The use of an arbitrator allows for the parties to schedule hearings in a timely manner. In many jurisdictions in may take months for an issue to be heard, and decided by the Judge that has been assigned to your case.

Arbitration of Custody Cases in Georgia-

In the State of Georgia (see O.C.G.A. 19-9-1.1) it is "permissible for the parents of a child to agree to binding arbitration on the issue of child custody and matters relative to visitation, parenting time, and a parenting plan." The arbitration decision is binding on the trial Judge, unless the trial Judge "makes specific written factual findings that under the circumstances of the parents and the child the arbiter’s award would not be in the best interests of the child."

If the parties to a contested custody dispute are not able to resolve their custody issues by agreement, the selection of a decision maker that has experience in the area of custody should be preferred over a Judge that has little to no knowledge of family law. Lasting resolutions are best achieved when the parties to the dispute have their hand in the outcome. In custody disputes the parents are best equipped to resolve decisions that affect the lives of their children.