Mediation vs. Arbitration

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Differences Between Mediation and Arbitration

During mediation, the parties determine the final outcome, and the mediators act only as facilitators. When a case goes to arbitration, the parties are legally obligated to abide by the arbitrators’ decision. While arbitration determines what people must do as a matter of law, mediation helps them to see what they should do as a matter of conscience.

(After an arbitration decision has been issued, the arbitrators may address behavior and attitudes they observed in the parties during the conciliation process.)

What Arbitration Can and Cannot Do

Arbitration may be used to resolve a broad range of issues. However, arbitration may not be used to resolve legal issues:

  • Solely within the jurisdiction of the family (e.g., how to discipline children)
  • Solely within the jurisdiction of the church (e.g., determining doctrine, dismissing a pastor, enforcing church discipline)
  • In which civil courts will not relinquish jurisdiction (e.g., child custody, support, and visitation)