Custody Mediation Versus Arbitration

Find Out Which Child Custody Option is Best for You

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Prior to a court hearing, single parents should consider a less adversarial system, such as mediation or arbitration. Parents who are considering custody mediation or arbitration will benefit from a better understanding of both processes. Here are few key benefits and differences between mediation and arbitration.


Child custody mediation is an excellent forum to assist single parents in handling their ​child custody cases. In mediation:

  • A mediator, a neutral third-party, is chosen for the case
  • The agreement is non-binding in court
  • The decision is determined by the parties involved in the case
  • All parties discuss the case with each other
  • It's informal and there are no rules, which apply in binding arbitration
  • It's confidential
  • There is a speedy settlement


Arbitration is beneficial for parents who have trouble communicating with each other or for parents who prefer a more structured process. In arbitration:

  • The decision is binding in court
  • The decision is determined by law
  • The case is discussed with an arbitrator
  • It's a formal, structured process
  • An arbitrator, a neutral third-party, is appointed to the case, and the arbitrator functions as a judge

Combination of Mediation and Arbitration

It's possible for mediation to be binding, which is sometimes referred to as binding mediation. The process generally starts with non-binding mediation and then becomes arbitration, if the parties don't agree. As such, the entire, combined process is referred to as binding mediation.

How to Choose Between Mediation and Arbitration

Parents should consider whether it's possible to make a decision in an open, informal manner. If parents prefer the structure of a court-like setting, arbitration may be a better alternative. It depends on the parties involved, as well as their level of communication. Mediation is similar to collaborative law with the exception that it is not binding in court.

There are several benefits to custody mediation and arbitration, as an alternative to a formal court process. Parents should make a joint decision, based on their needs and the needs of their family.