What is Arbitration and is it Right for Me?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is an alternative means to resolve disputes out of court.  Unlike mediation, arbitration is binding upon the parties.

How Does a Case Get to Arbitration?

In order to arbitrate, the parties must agree to do so.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) Section 52-408, the parties must memorialize their agreement to arbitrate in a written contract.  Once the parties have entered into an arbitration agreement, it must be approved by the Court before the arbitration proceedings commence.

Who will be the Arbitrator?

Usually, the parties will agree to an arbitrator and name him or her in their arbitration agreement.  In the event the parties are unable to agree on an arbitrator, the Court has the power to appoint one, as the case may require, pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-411.  The arbitrator will typically be an attorney or retired judge.

Are There Any Issues that cannot be heard at Arbitration?

Yes.  Pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-408, issues related to child support, visitation, and custody cannot be submitted to arbitration.  Therefore, arbitration may only be used for cases in which there are no child-related issues, or cases in which child-related issues have already been resolved.

What is the Difference between Arbitration and Trial?

Trials take place in a courtroom before a judge.  Arbitration, on the other hand, is more informal and takes place before an arbitrator, usually in a conference room.  However, there are some similarities.  For example, there will typically be a court reporter present at an arbitration, and the parties may agree that Connecticut Law and the Connecticut Rules of Evidence shall apply.  Procedurally, the parties may agree for counsel to make opening and closing statements, and examine witnesses, just as they would in a trial.

What Happens to my Court Case When We Submit to Arbitration?

Pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-409, actions in Court may be stayed, meaning that they are essentially paused, until the arbitration has occurred.  In order to have the Court proceedings stayed, a party must make a request in the form of a motion.  Then, the Court must be satisfied that the issues to be referred to arbitration are permitted under law, and that the party making the request for the stay is ready and willing to proceed with the arbitration.

What if my Spouse Refuses to Participate in Arbitration After We Have Signed an Agreement?

Pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-410, if one party neglects or refuses to participate in arbitration after submitting to a written arbitration agreement, the other party may make an application to the Court for an order directing the parties to proceed with arbitration in compliance with their agreement.

What Happens After Arbitration Has Concluded?

Usually, an arbitration agreement will state the deadline on which the arbitrator must render his or her decision.  If the agreement is silent as to a deadline, pursuant to C.G.S. Section 42-416, a decision must be rendered within thirty days from the date the arbitration is completed.  The decision must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator and notice is given to both parties.  Thereafter, pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-417, within one year from the date of the decision, either party may make an application to the Court to confirm the award.  The award will be confirmed unless the award is vacated, modified, or corrected by the Court.

Can I Challenge an Arbitration Ruling?

Yes.  Under certain limited circumstances, such as corruption, fraud, misconduct, or if the arbitrator has exceed his or her powers, an arbitration award may be vacated pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-418.  Arbitration awards may also be modified or corrected pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-419 if there has been an evident miscalculation of figures, an evident material mistake, if the arbitrator decided issues not submitted to him or her, or if the award is imperfect in matter of form not affecting the merits of the controversy.  Motions to vacate, modify, or correct an arbitration award must be brought within thirty days of the date of notice of the decision pursuant to C.G.S. Section 52-420.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in all aspects of divorce-related arbitrations.  Our experienced attorneys will counsel you to ensure that arbitration is right for you and your case.