Divorce arbitration is one approach that couples planning to get a divorce can take advantage of to navigate the legal process necessary to move forward with their lives. When a married couple plans to separate, they often have different opinions on many important issues, such as their marital assets, property, child custody schedules, support, and alimony. This is not unusual. After all, if a couple is preparing to split up, they probably do not agree on everything.
However, just because you and your current spouse disagree on how to resolve some issues regarding the resolution of your marriage, that does not necessarily mean you will need to go to court and litigate those issues publicly in a courtroom before a randomly assigned judge. For many divorcing couples, a better choice is to work with a divorce arbitration attorney to preside over their case in a private setting. This often has the benefit of expediting the process and often ends up saving the parties money in the long run.
Divorce Arbitration Attorney
The owner and managing attorney of Forester Family Law, PC, Neil Forester, is an attorney experienced in all areas of family law, with over 198 years of experience negotiating and litigating divorce and custody disputes. Now focusing primarily on mediation, arbitration, and private judging services—he brings an inside perspective to these roles and can provide unique guidance on anticipated outcomes in certain scenarios.
Attorney Neil Forester is able to apply the valuable knowledge that he has gained over the years regarding the ins and outs of the family law civil court system to the cases he now handles as a mediator, arbitrator, or private judge—and his clients share in that benefit, too. Forester Family Law, PC. is a virtual law firm, allowing Neil to provide legal services all over the state of California. With a virtual law firm, convenient online consultations and flexible mediation sessions are also offered to clients.
At Forester Family Law PC, Neil Forester uses a unique blend of discrete advisory counseling coupled with Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods to assist his clients in resolving their divorce, custody, and other family law disputes. His practice prioritizes an amicable approach using confidential out-of-court solutions, such as divorce arbitration. Neil is certified as a divorce arbitrator by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and has helped bring dozens of divorces to successful resolutions in his role as an arbitrator.
How Does Divorce Arbitration Work?
If you and your spouse choose to proceed with divorce arbitration as opposed to proceeding with divorce in the typical court litigation way, it is helpful to know what to expect as you get started. First, you should have an initial meeting with the divorce arbitrator of your choice to discuss the specific facts of your case—this includes a detailed description of any issues that are in dispute, along with any unique aspects of your case that the divorce arbitrator should be aware of beforehand to help streamline the process.
Once you have decided to move forward with divorce arbitration, you will collaborate on a written arbitration agreement. This agreement will set forth the responsibilities of the parties regarding payment, whether there will be one or more arbitrators deciding the case, the “rules” of the arbitration hearing, and any other potential matters.
Generally, an arbitration hearing in this setting is more relaxed when it comes to adhering to the court’s procedural rules. In other words, divorce arbitration hearings are often more flexible regarding the admissibility of evidence, hearsay, and other procedural rules that are strictly followed in civil court proceedings. This flexibility allows for a freer and more relaxed exchange of information and evidence, which can help make the process less adversarial overall.
Ultimately, the end result of a divorce arbitration hearing is an arbitration award issued by your divorce arbitrator. The arbitration award will be tendered to the court for confirmation and later for enforcement, if needed. It is essential to keep in mind throughout this process that arbitration awards are typically binding for most disputes—however, there is an exception when it comes to child custody. California courts recognize the importance of prioritizing the best interests of the child, so an award for child custody may still be challenged in family court, which gives the court the ultimate authority on that matter.
When Is Divorce Arbitration Recommended?
Divorce arbitration is best suited for certain types of marital disputes, such as property division and valuation-related disputes. Spousal support is another area in which a dispute can often be effectively resolved through divorce arbitration.
Many other types of disputes can also be resolved with divorce arbitration; however, two commonly disputed issues that may not be the best choices for divorce arbitration are child custody issues and child support determinations. The main reason that divorce arbitration is not well-suited for issuing child custody and child support awards is that these awards are not binding and can be brought to court for continued litigation. For this reason, it may not end up being the best use of the parties’ time and money.
Divorce arbitration is useful under many different circumstances and is a versatile approach to effectively resolving marital disputes to help parties finalize a divorce agreement. Arbitration is a flexible dispute resolution method that can be tailored to fit the unique needs of each divorcing couple—whether their case is simple or more complex.
Occasionally, after learning more information about a couple interested in pursuing divorce arbitration to resolve disputed issues and finalize their divorce, Neil may recommend a different approach to moving forward. Typically, he will recommend mediation or private judging if either approach is better suited to resolving your specific disputes. If so, he will explain his recommendation in detail, including his reasoning, and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have regarding the process.
How Does Divorce Arbitration Compare to Traditional Litigation?
As compared to traditional litigation, divorce arbitration offers many advantages. One of the most substantial advantages is that the parties have more control over the proceedings. The parties have the freedom to choose the arbitration rules and how they apply to the arbitration hearing. The ability of the parties to have control over important aspects of the process goes a long way by helping everyone involved feel heard and helps to foster a collaborative and amicable atmosphere.
Another difference between divorce arbitration and traditional litigation is that divorce arbitration is much more efficient. Traditional litigation can go on for a long time, and it can take years for a final resolution in a divorce case. With divorce arbitration, the process is much more streamlined and personalized. Many cases can be resolved within months instead of years, which is often the case with the traditional litigation process in family courts.
The dispute resolution approach used with divorce arbitration also encourages the parties to work together in a collaborative manner to resolve their issues. Using this less aggressive and adversarial approach to resolving the remaining marital disputes to reach an acceptable divorce agreement or award sets the parties up to have an amicable relationship going forward.
While maintaining an amicable relationship is crucial if a couple has young children and will need to work together to co-parent, even if there will be no remaining ties, it is not necessary to end a marriage with hostility if it can be avoided. Divorce arbitration is one way to minimize the adversarial nature of ongoing and contentious litigation in family court and to perhaps preserve the chance to maintain a positive relationship with your spouse post-divorce.
Finally, it is necessary to point out that divorce arbitration and private judging are not the same things, although they may seem similar. The key difference between these two alternatives to the traditional litigation process is that with divorce arbitration, the parties have the freedom and flexibility to choose the rules that apply. This means that they can opt out of some of the stricter rules of establishing the foundation of evidence or choose to forgo having to follow certain procedural rules.
With private judging, there is no flexibility when it comes to the rules. While there are certain benefits to choosing a private judge as opposed to moving forward with traditional litigation, you will be stuck with the California Rules of Civil Procedure and all other applicable local rules.
How Has the Pandemic Affected Divorce Arbitration?
Over the last few years, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. In the legal industry, one of the positive changes that has come from all of this is that many types of court proceedings can now be done virtually. This includes most or all aspects of the divorce arbitration process for matters handled by attorney Neil Forester.
When the pandemic began, Neil noticed the needs of his clients changing, so he shifted the focus of his practice to put a bigger emphasis on virtual meetings and virtual court appearances whenever possible. Recognizing the need for more divorce arbitrators able to practice virtually to help decrease the load on the backlogged court system, Neil began adding more and more divorce arbitration cases to his caseload. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Neil has helped dozens of clients resolve their divorces through arbitration and avoid the inevitable delays of the family court system.
What Are the Benefits of Choosing Neil Forester as a Certified Arbitrator?
If you and your spouse are considering your options for moving forward with resolving your divorce amicably with divorce arbitration, attorney Neil Forester can help. With years of experience negotiating and litigating cases on behalf of parties, Neil brings these skills and more to the table as an arbitrator with the responsibility of resolving disputes between divorcing couples to allow them to finalize their divorce quickly and efficiently.
Choosing Certified Divorce Arbitrator Neil Forester as your divorce arbitrator will help you save time and money by avoiding the overcrowded and public family court system, finalize your divorce quicker on average than you would with traditional litigation, and also allow you to maintain control over the process and the rules used during the arbitration hearing.
How to Determine If Divorce Mediation is the Right Approach for You
There are some situations in which divorce mediation may not be a realistic option, including extremely contentious and combative couples. You know your own marriage better than anyone else, so only you and your spouse will truly know if divorce mediation will be helpful in your case.
Generally, divorcing spouses who can still communicate and are amicable to some degree are good candidates for a successful divorce mediation. If you are still unsure, consider a consultation with a divorce mediator who can help you better understand if the divorce mediation process will be helpful for you.
What Is Divorce Arbitration?
Divorce arbitration is quite similar to what often comes to mind when you think of a divorce trial, but the key difference is that divorce arbitration takes place in a private setting in front of an arbitrator instead of a judge. A divorce arbitration hearing will be scheduled at a time and location that is convenient to all parties—while a typical trial in a divorce case heard in civil court will be scheduled according to the assigned trial judge’s availability.
Ultimately, the most significant difference between divorce arbitration and proceeding with a divorce trial in the civil court system is the level of control you have throughout the process. Divorce arbitration allows you and your spouse to have much more control over the process than you would otherwise. With this approach, you both have the opportunity to:
- Choose the divorce arbitrator you wish to handle your case;
- Choose hearing dates and times (within reason) that work best for you;
- Expedite the process and, in most cases, save money;
- Experience privacy throughout the process by avoiding a public courtroom.
Divorce arbitration is a good choice for many divorcing couples because it offers a private and efficient way to resolve divorce and custody issues, with the added benefit of allowing you to avoid having to deal with the overloaded court system.
How to Move Forward with Divorce Arbitration and Hire a Certified Divorce Arbitrator
Divorce arbitration is a great fit for many couples who have a relatively amicable relationship but are ready to move forward with filing for divorce. Couples that benefit from divorce arbitration often have a few disputed issues that they need a ruling on to resolve.
While taking the matter to court and pursuing traditional litigation in family court is one option, going down this road is often time-consuming and expensive. In many cases, resentment and frustration can build over time, making it difficult for the parties to reach any resolution of the issues in dispute on their own—which can result in a costly trial.
It is often a better idea to work together to choose a certified divorce arbitrator who can help you resolve matters out of court—privately, effectively, and efficiently. To learn more about how Certified Divorce Arbitrator Neil Forester can help you move forward with divorce arbitration, contact Forester Family Law, PC today.
Rethink the courtroom construct — SCHEDULE A VIRTUAL CONSULTATION to learn if your family’s situation would benefit from Mediation.
Experience & Insight
Over 18+ years of court appearances, settlement conferences, and private negotiations, NEIL has seen all types of family law cases, from simple and straightforward to complex and contentious. The following list of real-world experience highlights his streetwise and skill in the field. NEIL is available to consult on trial strategy and provide partial representation for litigants. In nearly all situations, he promotes settlement and non-adversarial solutions over contested divorce.
Represented owner of separate property business involving the sale of company shares with complex tracing issues and intricate analysis of the Pereira/Van Camp factors in determining the lack of a community property interest in the proceeds from the sale.
Represented one of four siblings who own a large national business in litigation involving characterization of premarital stocks in the company, tracing of funds from periodic distributions from the separate property business, and analysis of Pereira/Van Camp in determining separate property character of the underlying stock shares.
Represented partner in a law firm involving valuation of his practice, determination of the Marital Standard of Living in order to protect increased earnings post separation from spouse’s demand for increased spousal support, and analysis of retroactive in-kind payments to spouse’s separate obligations to create reimbursement claim for overpayment of support.
Represented law firm partner at Southern California Labor & Employment firm with significant business valuation and goodwill issues, resulting in full settlement through negotiation.
Represented retired business owner in a long term marriage involving highly complex separate property tracing issues, resulting in confirmation to the client of substantial commingled assets as separate property.
Represented single mother in a high-conflict custody dispute with an absentee father seeking shared physical custody, resulting in the client receiving sole legal custody and visitation to father only upon the client’s agreement.
Consulted with a client working with the opposing party (an attorney) through mediation to ensure the client understood the legal ramifications of the mediated issues, resulting in a successful resolution of the matter through mediation and avoiding the need to litigate the case.
Represented a high-profile public figure in a post-judgment spousal support modification case involving the interpretation and application of complex support modification and termination rules.
Represented two separate high-profile musicians in marital dissolution cases involving multi-million dollar intellectual property rights and property division issues.
Represented partner of Real Estate law firm in a marital dissolution case involving complex business valuation of law practice, domestic violence issues, and breach of fiduciary duty issues, resulting in highly favorable judgment after trial.
Represented law firm partner with a tax litigation practice in marital dissolution case involving significant separate property reimbursement issues, spousal support, and allocation of separate property debt issues.
Represented Peruvian father in child abduction matter under the Hague Convention resulting in the return of the child to the father after a single contested hearing.
Represented former member of the armed services in marital dissolution case involving contested child custody disputes, domestic violence, and support issues, resulting in an extremely favorable judgment for the client after contested trial.
Represented cardiologist in marital dissolution matter involving issues related to imputing income to underemployed spouse, valuation of a medical practice, and separate property reimbursement issues.
Represented commercial real property business owner in a marital dissolution case after 30 years of marriage, with issues involving three decades of tracing commingled separate property inheritance funds and property valuation, resulting in a favorable settlement for the client.
Represented mother of two children against Turkish father who illegally fled with the children out of the country and hid the children from her, resulting in the return of the children to her and virtual termination of father’s visitation rights.
Pro bono representation of woman seeking domestic violence restraining order against same sex cohabitant, resulting in full settlement of case.
Pro bono representation of abused Hmong woman seeking domestic violence restraining orders against violent husband who was seeking to have her deported, resulting in successful resolution of all issues.
Has successfully argued cases and motions before the Superior Courts of Sacramento, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Napa, Placer, Yolo, San Francisco, Marin, Tehama, Siskiyou, Solano, Stanislaus, Lassen, Lake, Yuba, and Nevada Counties.