Arbitration in Oregon Family Law Cases

Couple shaking hands across table with arbitrator - arbitration concept
Ending a marriage is not easy. Not only can divorce be emotionally difficult, but the process may present many legal challenges when spouses have disagreements over the various issues that must be decided — such as property and asset division. However, in Oregon, there is a way to divorce that is often more efficient and effective than going through the litigation process in court. Arbitration offers spouses a confidential and low-conflict method to part ways without the substantial costs and amount of time associated with litigation.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be used instead of resorting to litigation in various types of civil cases — including family law matters in Oregon. The procedure is similar to a trial, but it is much less formal. Instead of appearing before a judge, both parties will have their case heard by a neutral third-party called an “arbitrator,” whom they select. Unlike in mediation, the objective is not to negotiate a settlement agreement between the parties. The arbitrator listens to the testimony of both parties, evaluates the evidence in the case, and then makes a determination concerning the issue in dispute. Once the arbitrator renders a decision, the parties may be bound to it. Oregon does allow for a judicial review of the arbitration if the parties are not satisfied and if they initiate that review process in a timely and proper manner.

When Is Arbitration Mandatory in Oregon Divorce Cases?

Mandatory arbitration typically applies in domestic relations cases in which the only contested matter concerns the division of property under a certain value In other words, if there are issues concerning custody, parenting time,spousal support, or property worth more than a certain value, arbitration is not compulsory. In addition to dissolution of marriage cases, the mandatory arbitration program also applies to registered and unregistered domestic partnerships that go before the court.

What Are the Benefits of Arbitration?

Arbitration comes with numerous benefits in a family law matter. Importantly, both parties get to decide who will be the arbitrator, unlike in litigation where parties do not have any input concerning who the judge will be in their case. This means they can select an arbitrator who has experience handling cases that involve the specific issue in dispute. Some of the other benefits include the following:
  • Maintaining privacy — When a case is litigated in court, it is open to the public and the proceedings become part of the public record. Rather, arbitrations are conducted privately outside of court.
  • Cost-effectiveness — Arbitration can help parties avoid incurring the expense of litigation.
  • Faster than litigation — With arbitration, you can avoid the delays that are an inherent part of the court process and reach a resolution in your case without being dependent upon the court calendar. Instead of taking months to appear on the court calendar, arbitration can usually be scheduled within days.
  • Less formality than litigation — Arbitration is flexible and informal. The parties can set their own rules and decide what issues the arbitrator will determine.
  • Reduced stress — Since there is greater privacy, less expense, and the process is quicker than litigation, arbitration can significantly reduce the amount of stress on the parties. It can also help to prevent children from having to experience the emotional turbulence that can come with a lengthy court battle.
  • Streamlining the divorce process — Arbitration can streamline the divorce process by allowing couples to agree to simplified evidence rules and resolve their case more quickly than they would in court. There are also usually fewer issues to resolve when a case is arbitrated.
Additionally, because there is an open dialogue, this process can allow the parties to find creative solutions to their issues that a judge in the courtroom might not be able to consider. Families can reach a resolution that is specifically tailored to their case and their needs.

Are There Drawbacks to Arbitration?

Although there are numerous benefits to divorce arbitration, it may not be appropriate in every case. Notably, arbitration can only work if the parties to the divorce are reasonable. While the parties don’t necessarily have to get along, it may not be beneficial in situations involving hidden assets, abuse, or a high level of contention. In addition, arbitration is limited to specific issues. If there are numerous issues that must be determined in your divorce, it may not be the right method of dispute resolution. Similarly, it’s critical to understand that unlike in litigation — where a judge’s decision can be appealed to a higher court — neither party has the option to appeal when arbitration is binding.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Divorce and Family Law Attorney

If you are facing divorce, it’s vital to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to advise you of your rights and options. At Litowich Law, we know that divorce isn’t one-size-fits-all, and we work with clients to find tailored solutions to help them achieve the best possible outcome. Located in Salem and serving clients throughout Oregon, we welcome you to contact us for a consultation to learn how we can assist you.
Categories: Divorce, Mediation