Last year, in the Fawzy decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court put procedures in place approving parents’ ability to arbitrate child custody opinion. This specifics of this decision was the subject of a prior blog at the time of the decision. One of the procedural safeguards required by Fawzy was a verbatim record of the proceedings so that there could be meaningful review of the decision by a court. Yesterday, the Supreme Court revisited this issue in the case of Johnson v. Johnson. In May of this year, I previously blogged about this case though at that time, we all thought that the bigger issue for the court’s consideration was whether Fawzy could be retroactively applied.
In Johnson, there was no verbatim record as was required by Fawzy, for the simply reason that the parties had agreed that there was not going to be a verbatim record. They did, however, agree that the arbitrator would provide detailed findings of fact. In fact, the arbitrator did provide extremely detailed findings both in the initial opinion and upon a motion for reconsideration. After Fawzy was decided, an appeal ensued and the arbitration award was set aside for no verbatim record.
The Supreme Court in Johnson started by reminding us of what Fawzy requires with regard to an agreement to arbitrate:
must be in writing or recorded in accordance with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-1.
In addition, it must state in clear and unmistakable language: (1) that the parties
understand their entitlement to a judicial adjudication of their dispute and are
willing to waive that right; (2) that the parties are aware of the limited circumstances under which a challenge to the arbitration award may be advanced and agree
to those limitations; (3) that the parties have had sufficient time to consider the
implications of their decision to arbitrate; and (4) that the parties have entered into
the arbitration agreement freely and voluntarily, after due consideration of the
consequences of doing so.