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The Difference Between Arbitration, Mediation, and Trial in Divorce

When it comes to divorce, couples have many options.  The easiest choice to dissolve a marriage occurs when the couple agrees between themselves how they would like to divide assets and care for any children of the marriage.

If this is possible, the couple can draft an agreement, have it reviewed by an attorney, and get it signed by a judge.  In many cases, however, couples cannot come to an agreement regarding some or all the issues which arise during a divorce, and they must seek assistance from a competent family law attorney.

The three basic legal processes which couples can utilize to facilitate the divorce are mediation, arbitration, and trial.  The description and benefits of each are discussed below.


Mediation is an informal proceeding where couples can discuss the specifics of the divorce with assistance from a mediator.

A mediator is a neutral third party who does not have the authority of a judge, but who can help with some legal questions, clarify discussion points, and offer light suggestions if the divorcing parties disagree about certain issues throughout the proceeding.

The goal of mediation is to have the parties come to an agreement on their own with the guidance of the mediator.

Even though mediation is an informal proceeding, it is important that you have an attorney for this process to ensure no details are left out of the agreement and that you get what you deserve in the divorce.

Once an agreement is reached, the agreement will need to be signed by a judge to become effective.


Arbitration is like mediation, but the neutral third party is called an arbitrator, and he or she is generally an expert in family law and is able to draft a legally binding agreement.

In addition, an arbitrator can make decisions with regard to issues that couples cannot agree on themselves.  For example, if a couple cannot agree who should keep the family dog, the arbitrator may ask who usually feeds the dog, takes it to the vet, etc. and award the dog to that individual.

If that same issue arose in a mediation, the mediator would not be able to choose for the couple, but instead, he or she could ask questions or suggest a solution, but the choice would ultimately be up to the couple to make.

Arbitration is a formal proceeding, and the outcome of the arbitration is final.  For that reason, it is extremely important to have strong legal counsel present during the proceeding to protect your rights.


If couples cannot agree to terms of the divorce on their own and they do not wish to try mediation or arbitration, trail is the final option.

During a divorce trail, both parties appear before a judge, and the judge determines how the assets will be split and who should receive custody of the children.

It is necessary to have the assistance of a strong family lawyer if you choose to go to trial.  An attorney will fight for your rights in the courtroom and can help convince a judge to resolve the issues in your favor.

Call Today

During a divorce, you have many important decisions to make.

An experienced family law attorney like those of Scott M. Brown and Associates can discuss your situation with you and help determine the right course of action.

For more information, call us at 979-849-8526 for a consultation or contact us online.

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