In the course of divorce proceedings, the law often seeks to provide avenues outside of the traditional courtroom setting to help couples find common ground. This approach, known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), encompasses various methods designed to help parties resolve disputes more amicably. Here’s an in-depth look at some of the key provisions under this subchapter:
1. Arbitration Procedures (Sec. 6.601)
Arbitration involves a neutral third party (the arbitrator) who makes a decision after hearing both sides. In the context of marital dissolution:
- Parties can mutually agree to submit their divorce to arbitration.
- They must specify in writing whether the arbitration is binding (final) or non-binding.
- In the case of binding arbitration, the court will enforce the arbitrator’s decision through a court order.
2. Determination of Validity (Sec. 6.6015)
This section addresses concerns where one party may contest the validity of an arbitration agreement:
- If a party challenges the validity of an arbitration agreement, the court will decide on its enforceability.
- The court will only compel arbitration if it determines that the agreement is valid.
- This section also lists exclusions, such as court orders and mediated settlement agreements.
3. Mediation Procedures (Sec. 6.602)
Mediation is a facilitated negotiation process led by a neutral third party:
- The court can refer a divorce case to mediation either on its own or based on mutual agreement.
- Mediated settlement agreements are binding if they clearly state they cannot be revoked, are signed by both parties and their attorneys.
- Parties can object to mediation due to concerns of family violence.
4. Informal Settlement Conference (Sec. 6.604)
This provides a less structured setting for parties to discuss and potentially settle their disputes:
- Parties can agree to have one or more informal conferences, with or without their attorneys.
- Any agreement reached must be in writing, stating it cannot be revoked, and signed by both parties and their attorneys.
- The court can adopt the terms of the agreement if it deems them fair. If not, it can request a revised agreement or proceed to a contested hearing.
Alternative Dispute Resolution methods offer a more collaborative and often less adversarial approach to resolving marital disputes. These methods can be beneficial for couples looking for a more private, quicker, and potentially less emotionally taxing resolution than a courtroom trial.
For those considering or navigating the divorce process, understanding ADR can be invaluable. If you need further guidance on this or any other aspect of divorce law, reach out to The Blacknall Firm for expert assistance.