What is med-arb? And could it be for me?

Med-arb combines two forms of dispute resolution – mediation and arbitration.  Both use a neutral third party to resolve a dispute but in different ways.  Using them together means you can maximise the benefits of both processes to reach an agreement more quickly and cost-effectively than if you went to court. 

Before starting med-arb, it is important that both you and your ex understand that, once you start, neither of you will be able to withdraw from the process without the agreement of the other.  You need to be sure that this is the right option for you.

First, you and your ex will sign a mediation and arbitration agreement. Then you will work with a mediator. A mediator is a person trained to help you negotiate to try and reach an agreement.  Mediators are neutral.  They don't make decisions for you and don't force you or your partner to agree. They help you speak with each other and understand each other's situation. Their goal is to help you both compromise and agree on things.  They will help you gather all the relevant information in your case and to work towards an agreement. 

However, if you and your ex can’t reach an agreement with the mediator’s help (or perhaps you can agree some things but not everything), in the med-arb process you move automatically into an arbitration to have your differences resolved.  An arbitrator is also neutral but their role is to impose a final, binding decision on you and your ex.  They will hear what you both have to say and may also hear expert evidence if it is needed.  To avoid duplication, the information you gathered in your mediation will be passed to the arbitrator.  Applying the relevant legal criteria, the arbitrator will reach a decision. 

Usually the mediator and arbitrator are different people, although this may change in the future .  The skills required for arbitrators and mediators are different, although some  dispute resolution professionals are trained in both, and it helps if each understand both processes.  Here at Mills & Reeve four of our arbitrators  are also trained as mediators.  In other cases, the mediator and arbitrator are different people. 

Med-arb provides separating couples with a smooth, streamlined process, allowing them to reach their own decisions where possible with the help of a mediator, and guaranteeing them a binding outcome whatever happens.  If you think med-arb could be for you, contact  me for more information.

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