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AAML-Certified to Arbitrate California Family Law Cases

by | Aug 23, 2020 | News & Events

What is a Certified Family Law Arbitrator?

I’m pleased to hold a certification in family law arbitration, a program established by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The AAML is comprised of more than 1,500 Fellows located nationwide, and has been a professional organization since 1962. Academy Fellows must pass rigorous testing and peer review to be invited to join. In California, fewer than 20 lawyers have acquired arbitrator certification through the AAML.

With courts across the country closed or dealing with large backlogs of cases due to COVID-19, clients and their lawyers may be best served through an alternative dispute resolution process such as arbitration. Arbitration can be binding or nonbinding and may be conducted before a panel or a single arbitrator.

Family law litigation has always felt to me like a square peg/round hole situation, at least as far as trying to shoehorn divorce cases into our civil court construct.

Arbitration was first used in the US in labor and commercial law, but the use of arbitration in matrimonial cases has been steadily increasing. It is well-suited, not only to divorce cases, but also to matrimonial appellate review and modifiability of spousal support. An arbitration can follow the formal rules and procedures used in litigation or, if both sides agree, the rules can be modified to fit the case.

What are the advantages of arbitration in the California divorce process?

Advantages include:

  • The process is private as compared to the courthouse.
  • The parties can choose an arbitrator with knowledge and skills appropriate to the issues in the particular case.
  • The process provides a more convenient and reliable timetable.
  • Arbitrators may craft a decision that is more suited to a case than a judge might.

A refresh of existing norms awaits.

I believe arbitration is a key to unlocking the backlog of family law cases in our congested courts, and in providing a framework for people who need family law solutions but do not need, or want, to sue each other in court to get them. The good news is that the family courts are well aware of the situation facing litigants compromised by COVID-19, and our judges and lawyers are working together in many California counties to figure out how best to address the legal landscape of today and tomorrow. Collectively, we have a unique opportunity to refresh the existing norms in our judicial process. “Business as usual” is no longer a sustainable goal, and our courts understand this new reality.


The 1,650 AAML Fellows across the U.S. are generally recognized by judges and attorneys as preeminent family law practitioners with a demonstrated reputation for professionalism, competence, and integrity. They are typically board-certified specialists in their jurisdiction, and represent individuals in all facets of family law. These areas include divorce, annulment, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, child custody and visitation, business valuations, property valuations and division, alimony, child support and other family law issues.


Attorney NEIL FORESTER is the owner of FORESTER FAMILY LAW PC, a remote-first ADR practice. Amid COVID-19 conditions, he prioritizes out-of-court alternatives to traditional litigation for divorce and parenting disputes. Neil is a California bar-certified Family Law Specialist and a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He provides second opinions and trial strategy consulting, as well as prenups, adoptions, cohabitation agreements, domestic partnerships, and pet parenting plans. Learn more at foresterfamilylaw.com and follow @nmeforester on Twitter. 

This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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