Smith certified as a circuit court arbitrator

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Morton & Gettys partner Michael Smith now is a certified as a South Carolina Family Law Arbitrator.

Smith is also a South Carolina Family Law Mediator and trained in collaborative divorce. He and fellow partner John Gettys, a certified circuit court mediator, form the firm’s Alternative Dispute Resolution team, which offers an array of services that provide an alternative to the adversarial approach. Mediation now is mandatory in South Carolina circuit and family courts. Probate judges also can order mediation.

Arbitration and mediation are similar ways to settle disputes out of court, but with important differences. Arbitrators hear evidence from both sides and then make a decision. The process is somewhat like a trial but less formal. Mediators work to guide parties to an agreement but make no decisions.

“There are a number of reasons parties in a family court setting might choose to arbitrate rather than submit their dispute to a judge,” says Smith. They include:

  • An arbitration can be conducted and a final ruling issued much more quickly than a case can be litigated from start to finish. Litigation typically takes a full 12 months, while an arbitration can be scheduled usually within a month or two.
  • Because all the formalities of litigation are not required and the rules are less strict in arbitration, it usually costs less. Parties do not have to attend all the hearings required in litigation.
  • All documents in litigation are part of the public record. The only document that becomes part of the public record with arbitration is the final decision. When parties have not paid their taxes, have lurid details from their private lives, or have some notoriety or fame, they may wish to arbitrate rather than litigate.

The ultimate issue of custody cannot be arbitrated, but virtually all other issues, including visitation/parenting time, child support, alimony, equitable apportionment of the marital estate, and attorney’s fees can be.

Smith practices family law at Morton & Gettys, including child custody, support, visitation, distribution of marital assets and other issues.

Michael B. Smith

Partner

P 803.366.3426  F 803.366.4044