Mediation is a process in which two parties in a case use the help of an independent, neutral mediator to help them resolve their issues amicably and outside of the court system. The mediator does not represent either party, nor does the mediator have the authority to force either party to come to an agreement. The mediator does, however, help the parties try to come up with creative solutions to their problems, and to resolve their issues themselves, without fighting about those issues in court.
Arbitration is usually a streamlined version of a trial, except that an arbitrator decides the case, rather than a judge. An arbitrator is also an independent, neutral person in the process, however an arbitrator’s role is similar to that of a judge. An arbitrator’s job is not to help people resolve their issues: the arbitrator listens to the evidence, and then, like a judge, decides what the parties will do. Arbitration is rarely used in divorce cases, probably for practical reasons: if the parties in a divorce want someone to decide their case for them, its usually easier to just go before a judge.
Karen A. Covy, J.D. is a divorce attorney and family law mediator in Chicago Illinois . She is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends, How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally. She can be reached at (312) 236-1670, or thru email. View her Divorce Magazine profile.