What Is Child Custody Arbitration?

Arbitration is one way to move forward with a child custody decision. But it's not the only option for tough divorce cases, and sometimes, a different path works better.

What is child custody arbitration?

Child custody arbitration is a process where a neutral third-party arbitrator helps parents determine their child custody arrangements outside of court. The arbitrator hears both sides of the argument and then makes a binding decision on the matter.

During child custody arbitration, the arbitrator evaluates all relevant factors, such as the child's best interests, caregivers' abilities to provide for the child, and the child's relationship with both parents. The arbitrator then makes a final decision on child custody based on these factors. The decision of the arbitrator is typically binding and enforceable in court.

Child custody arbitration is useful for parents who cannot come to an agreement about the custody of the child and prefer not to go to court. It can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective than going through the court process. It also allows parents to have more control over the decision-making process and the outcome than if they were to go to court.

However, child custody arbitration is not always the appropriate solution. Cases that involve child abuse, serious neglect, or domestic violence should always be handled in court.

It's essential to select a qualified and experienced arbitrator to ensure the process is fair and unbiased.

Who needs child custody arbitration?

Child custody arbitration may be necessary for parents who cannot come to an agreement concerning their child's custody.

Parents who cannot agree

In situations where parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement because of differences in parenting style or significant conflicts, child custody arbitration may be appropriate. It can be useful for parents who prefer to keep their child custody dispute out of the courtroom and under the supervision of a neutral third-party arbitrator. It's also a practical option for those who want the best interests of their child to guide the decision-making process instead of solely focusing on their individual preferences or needs.

Parents living in different states or countries

Child custody arbitration may be a suitable option when the parents live in different states or countries. The arbitrator can consider the laws that are relevant in each jurisdiction and make sure the custody arrangement aligns with the best interests of the child while also being legally valid. This can be especially helpful for avoiding future legal conflicts.

Parents dealing with family complications

Child custody arbitration can be helpful in situations where there are complications with family dynamics or mental health concerns that could interfere with the decision-making process. The arbitrator can assess the situation and make recommendations that consider the child's well-being, with the ultimate goal of achieving a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved.

Arbitrators do not provide legal advice. Their job is to act as a third-party neutral to help resolve conflict

What are the pros and cons?

Pros of child custody arbitration

  • Efficient and cost-effective: Child custody arbitration can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective than going through the court process, especially if the case is complicated.
  • Control over the process: Parents can have more control over the decision-making process and the outcome than if they were to go to court. They can choose an arbitrator that they trust and create their timetable for the proceedings.
  • Privacy: Child custody arbitration is usually confidential, so parents can protect their privacy and maintain a low profile.
  • Binding decision: In binding arbitration, the arbitrator's decision is final. It’s legally binding, which can provide closure to the parties involved.

Cons of child custody arbitration

  • Limited discovery: The parties may have limited access to evidence, witness testimony, and information important to them.
  • Exclusivity clause: Arbitration clauses in contracts or agreements may limit the parent's choice to go to court, as they may become obligated to use arbitration under these agreements.
  • Less formal protection: Unlike a court, arbitration proceedings may offer fewer formal protections and a smaller number of applicable laws and rules.

Are the results legally binding?

The results of child custody arbitration can be legally binding if the parties have agreed to binding arbitration. In binding child custody arbitration, the arbitrator's decision is final and enforceable. The parties cannot appeal the decision or take the matter to court.

However, if the parties have agreed to non-binding arbitration, they can reject the arbitrator's decision and proceed to court. 

It's crucial to consult with a qualified attorney and review the arbitration agreement carefully before proceeding with child custody arbitration.

Read: 5 Useful Co-Parenting Plan Resources

Arbitration vs. mediation

Arbitration is a binding process where a neutral third-party arbitrator makes a decision on the dispute after hearing and listening to evidence and arguments presented by both sides. A divorcing couple may agree to binding arbitration, or they may specify that they want the arbitrator’s decision to be non-binding. The decision of the arbitrator in binding arbitration is final and legally enforceable.

Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party mediator helps disputing parties reach a voluntary agreement. The mediator does not have the power to make final decisions or impose solutions.

Both arbitrators and mediators are decision-makers. However, you do not have to abide by their decision unless you’ve entered binding arbitration.

Mediation sessions are often less formal than arbitration, which can make for a more comfortable negotiation experience where both parties feel they have more control. At Hello Divorce, we offer flat-rate divorce mediation services to clients because we understand just how valuable the mediation process can be. It can help you make important decisions regarding your marital settlement agreement – including child custody – without the high cost of hiring a divorce lawyer and litigating in court.

If you’re interested in learning more about the remote mediation services we offer, please schedule a free 15-minute phone call to speak with one of our account coordinators.

Suggested: Can a Special Master Help Me in My Child Custody Matter?

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.