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Alternative Dispute Resolution and Divorce

Once certain couples reach the point of divorce, chances are high they have been disagreeing for some time. For this reason, it is not surprising that many divorcing couples have disputes regarding issues such as property division, debt division, child time-sharing, support payments, and more. If couples ultimately are unable to agree on certain issues, the Florida family courts may have to step in and make the decisions for them.

Litigation can be a drain on everyone’s resources, including time, money, and energy. Fortunately, divorcing couples have other options to try to settle disputes on their own before having to get the court involved. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term used for different techniques that may be used to assist divorcing couples in coming to an agreement outside of the courtroom. The following are examples of ADR available to divorcing couples in Florida


Mediation is a process in which both divorcing spouses come together to discuss their issues with the assistance of a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who is specifically trained in this type of dispute resolution and who has no special interest in either party’s case. The mediator will help facilitate discussion of the issues in order to reach a settlement that is mutually agreeable for both spouses. If a settlement is reached, the mediator will submit the agreement for approval by the court.

Mediation is faster, less costly, more informal, and generally more efficient than litigation and, in fact, Florida family courts may actually require couples to attend mediation prior to bringing certain issues before the court. However, a mediator can never force either party to agree to any settlement against their will, so mediation is not always successful in resolving all issues in a divorce.


Arbitration is a type of private trial in which divorcing spouses hire an arbitrator who serves as a private judge. This type of ADR is less common than mediation, though it has gained popularity in divorce cases in recent years.

In arbitration, both sides will present arguments to the arbitrator, just as they would at trial, and the arbitrator will make decisions on the issues just as a judge in family court would. Couples may prefer arbitration to traditional trial, however, because it tends to cost less and resolve a case faster, as well as being a more private proceeding than a trial in open court.

However, the decisions made by an arbitrator are binding on the divorcing couple, and there is no appeal process to a higher court. The finality of the arbitrator’s decisions may cause some divorcing couples to shy away from this ADR method.

An Experienced Divorce Attorney Can Help You Explore ADR

If you and your spouse cannot agree on issues in your divorce, an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney can advise you of all of your ADR options in Florida. Engaging in ADR can save you time, money, and stress, and can even give you a greater voice in the resolution of disputes. Please contact family lawyer Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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