Mark Ashton, a partner in our Exton, Pennsylvania office, and the editor of the firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law blog, wrote an interesting post on that blog entitled Mediate, Arbitrate, Negotiate: What’s a Client to Do?" To read the post, click here.
Mark’s blog entry goes through the options of alternate dispute resolution. Like Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, there is very limited review of an arbitrator’s decision. However, parties can agree to an appeals type process. However, that appeal would be to a trial court, not the Appellate Division as we recently learned in the reported case of Hoogoboom. Moreover, in New Jersey, you can mediate, but you cannot arbitrate custody and parenting time disputes.
Also, in my experience, arbitrations are very much like trials with the arbitrator serving as the judge. While you can agree to relax the rules of evidence and the arbitrator, under the arbitration act can choose to relax the rules, most often unless people agree to proceed in some kind of summary format, an arbitration proceeds in the same manner as a trial in a Court would.
That said, the benefits of an arbitration noted in Mark’s post are the same.