Collaborative law is an alternative legal process for couples, who have decided to separate or end their marriage. Couples work with their respective lawyers and other professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of trial. The goal is to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation. This voluntary process is initiated when the couple signs a contract called a participation agreement. This contract binds the parties to the process and disqualifies their respective lawyer’s right to represent either party in any future family‑related litigation. Settlements are not based upon what they are legally entitled to receive but rather what will meet the needs of each party and the children.
Arbitration is a process to resolve family law disputes outside the court system. The parties agree upon a third party as an arbitrator who will act as a judge. After giving the parties the opportunity to present their side of the story and to present any relevant documents or other evidence, the arbitrator will decide how to resolve the divorce. There are usually no set rules as to how arbitration is conducted. It is typically left to the agreement of the parties.
There can be binding and non‑binding arbitration. A “binding” arbitration generally means that the parties can take an arbitration award to a court of law and enforce it. “Non‑binding” arbitration refers to a situation where the parties agree to use arbitration as a forum to try to resolve their differences, but neither party is bound to comply with any decision by the arbitrator.
The number‑one benefit of arbitration is that it serves as a forum to resolve disputes outside of the judicial system. Arbitration can be fast, quick and easy, whereas lawsuits can drag on for years and years. Since the rules of evidence and procedure are usually relaxed in arbitration proceedings. Arbitration tends to be less expensive than pursuing a lawsuit. While the parties will have to pay the arbitrator, his or her fees will inevitably be less than the attorneys’ fees that they will have to pay to take the same case to trial.