Arbitration is an alternative means of settling a dispute employing a neutral third party who will listen to each argument and decide the matter without proceeding to a trial. It is sometimes preferred as a means of settling a matter in order to avoid the expense, delay, and acrimony of litigation. There is no discovery and there are simplified rules of evidence in arbitration. The arbitrator or arbitrators are selected directly by the parties or are chosen in accordance with the terms of a contract.
When parties submit to arbitration, they agree to be bound by and comply with the arbitrators’ decision. The arbitrators’ decision is given after an informal proceeding where each side presents evidence and witnesses. Arbitration hearings usually last only a few hours and the opinions are not public record. Arbitration has long been used in labor, construction, and securities regulation, but is now gaining popularity in other business disputes.
Some arbitration proceedings are mandatory, such as many labor disputes. Other arbitration proceedings are incorporated into contracts in the event of a dispute. Couples who sign cohabitation agreements or divorce agreements sometimes include a clause agreeing to go to arbitration if any dispute should arise, thereby avoiding the delay, expense, bitterness and formality of litigation. Companies may seek arbitration of disputes for public relation reasons, so as to avoid the negative publicity of a trial.