Keeping divorce private and out of court through mediation

How mediation and arbitration may be the best divorce options for people who want to maintain their privacy.

Most couples would consider their divorce to be a private, family affair. Unfortunately, when a divorce is litigated it becomes a matter for the public record and, furthermore, decisions that may affect not just divorcing spouses themselves but also their children are ultimately placed in the hands of a judge. One way of taking greater control of one's divorce is through mediation and arbitration, which are two similar alternative divorce options that allow spouses, with the aid of a qualified mediator or arbitrator, to come to a divorce agreement that works best for their unique interests.

Mediation vs. Arbitration

Mediation simply means that both spouses choose to keep their divorce out of the courtroom and instead work out their differences privately. As CBC News reports, due to court backlogs, the provincial government has taken steps to encourage divorcing spouses to pursue mediation rather than litigation. During mediation, both spouses negotiate privately with one another, either face-to-face or in separate rooms with the mediator acting as a go-between. The mediator is neutral during this process, but his or her training will help ensure that whatever agreement a couple comes up with is legally enforceable.

Arbitration is very similar to mediation except in one key detail. Whereas in mediation either party can walk away from negotiations at any time and neither party is required to accept a final agreement, in arbitration the arbitrator (who functions similarly to a judge) has the power to impose a final agreement on both parties.

Benefits of mediation/arbitration

As MetroNews reports, there are plenty of benefits to keeping divorce out of the courts. For couples that want to protect their privacy, an out-of-court option is usually best. Court proceedings are a matter of public record, whereas during mediation and arbitration any details that come out during negotiations are kept private. This sense of privacy may allow negotiations to proceed in a more open and honest manner.

There are other practical reasons for pursuing mediation. Often it is faster and cheaper, for example, since court backlogs and fees associated with litigation will not usually be an issue in mediation. Perhaps most importantly, however, it gives couples the opportunity to create a divorce agreement that is tailored to their specific needs. This personalized approach tends to be especially advantageous when working out issues such as child custody and support.

Family law

Mediation and arbitration, however, are not right for everyone. Anybody who is considering a divorce and wants to know which path may be the best one for them should talk to a family law lawyer who is experienced in both litigation and mediation. Such a lawyer will be in the best position to offer advice on the benefits and drawbacks of the various divorce options, especially in terms of how they pertain to a client's specific needs.