Are you wondering about the difference between mediation & arbitration? There are pros and cons to each of these methods depending on your situation and while they are similar, they have some distinct differences.

The primary difference between mediation and arbitration is simple: Arbitrators hand down decisions similar to judges. When two parties agree to arbitration they are agreeing to abide by the ruling without many options for appeal.


Mediation can be voluntary or compulsory (court ordered). Often with child custody arrangements, the courts will order the divorcing or separating couple to attend mediation and try to work out the details between themselves before the judge will make a ruling. The judge will stay, or pause, proceedings until an outcome is reached. Often there is only a single mediator, who does not need formal legal training, that will facilitate negotiations between parties. If either a settlement is reached or there is a deadlock in the negotiations the mediator will make a recommendation to the court where the judge will hand down a ruling. This gives the mediator an important role and gives parties an incentive to make a good faith effort to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement.


Arbitration may also be voluntary or compulsory but is a replacement for a trial. Since there will not be a trial, the ruling of the arbitrator is binding just as a judge’s order would be. The arbitration may be handled by either a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators who, like mediators, do not need any formal legal training. Since the decision of the arbitrator(s) is final, their role is crucial and choosing them carefully is very important.

There are different situations where one method may benefit parties better than another method. Some examples for each are:

Circumstances best for Mediation

  • Divorce and child custody
  • Harassment in the workplace
  • Disputes between family members, neighbors, landlords, or business partners

Circumstances best for Arbitration

  • When there are jurisdictional issues
  • When both parties require confidentiality
  • When a specialist is needed to make a ruling
  • When time and money is a concern

Call Tempe Attorney, Ronald L. Kossack

There are pros and cons to consider with any important legal decision. Call the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack to discuss whether mediation or arbitration is best for your situation. Contact our office or call 480-345-2652.