Many people do not know the difference between mediation and arbitration. Often, the terms are used interchangeably. This is understandable, as there are similarities between the two. Both mediation and arbitration are types of alternative dispute resolution, which refers to any procedures for settling disputes outside the courtroom. Both mediation and arbitration also involve a neutral third party. However, there are key differences between mediation and arbitration.

The biggest difference is that mediation is non-binding. Mediation refers to a process by which two people attempt to reach an agreement with the assistance of a neutral third party, called the mediator. The mediator helps to facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties. The mediator does not have any authority to resolve any disputes. In other words, if the parties are unable to agree, they probably will have to go to court.

In contrast, arbitration is binding. Similar to mediation, a neutral third party conducts this process. This third party is called the arbitrator. In some cases, there may be more than one arbitrator. The arbitrator listens to both parties’ sides and then decides the case. Because this decision is binding, the parties must follow it even if they do not agree.

In some ways, arbitration is similar to litigation. Both procedures are binding and involve a decision-maker (either the arbitrator or the judge) who resolves the dispute. People sometimes favor going to arbitration over litigation because of how costly and time-consuming litigation can be.

If you are involved in a family law dispute, you should consider mediation, arbitration, or another form of alternative dispute resolution. In fact, Utah law requires couples to attend mediation at the start of every divorce case. Even if the divorce is not contested, mediation can still be very helpful. It allows you to work with the other party to communicate your concerns, share critical information, and hopefully resolve your issues more quickly.

To learn more about alternative dispute resolution, speak with a family law attorney. Each case is different, and an attorney can help you decide which process is right for you.

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