During a divorce there is nothing more emotionally challenging and complex then resolving issues concerning child custody and parenting time. Frequently, divorcing parties submit their issues of custody and parenting time to the courts for resolution. Maryland and the District of Columbia allow parents the additional option of resolving their custody and parenting time issues through arbitration. At times, parents prefer submitting their issues to an arbitrator because of the flexibility they can enjoy in choosing the arbitrator versus a judge whom they cannot hand-pick. Another component of this flexibility is the ability to schedule your time with the arbitrator instead of being available at the court’s direction.
Arbitration is a process by which the parties can resolve temporary and permanent custody and parenting time issues through motions and, ultimately if necessary, tried with a neutral third party fact-finder known as an arbitrator. At the conclusion of the hearing, the arbitrator(s) render a decision as to how the issues presented should be resolved. The right of appeal is limited and must be negotiated “up front” in an arbitration agreement.While parties are free to choose arbitration of their custody and parenting time issues, an agreement, in writing, is required. The agreement must clearly establish that the parties are aware of their rights to a judicial determination and have knowingly and voluntarily waived them. Accordingly, a person cannot be forced to sign an agreement to arbitrate, he/she must understand the terms of the agreement.