A case decided on January 5, 2008 by the Michigan court of appeals involved a challenge to the decision of the arbitrator where the parents had agreed to binding arbitration. The parents, who were never married, has a dispute about child custody, parenting time, name of the child, and support. An ex parte order awarded sole legal and sole physical custody to the mother and ordered the father to pay support. The father objected. The parents submitted the case to binding arbitration.
They stipulated that each party would be interviewed by the arbitrator separately and each waived the right of cross-examination. At the arbitration, by omission, the arbitrator failed to tape record the testimony of the Plaintiff and her father. She was offered the opportunity of a "do-over" and declined. But when the plaintiff took exception to the arbitrator's decision, she requested a de novo review of the arbitrator's decision and there, for the first time, complained that the arbitrator's failure to tape record the proceedings resulted in an unfair arbitration hearing.
The majority affirmed the trial court's ruling that the Plaintiff could not harbor an appellate parachute only to later complain about something to which she'd consented in the arbitration. The thoughtful dissent by Judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher is well worth reading.
I believe that binding arbitration can reduce the stress on the parties, can reduce their legal expenses, and can facilitate a continuing co-parenting relationship. Litigation so often destroys the ability of the parties to co-parent in the future.
I'd be interested in comments from lawyers and parents who have participated in arbitration. Do you believe that it helped resolve the parties' disputed issues quickly, fairly, while still preserving their ability to effectively co-parent? Were there any significant problems involved?
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