Appellate Court Affirms Arbitration Divorce Settlement as Final

With the daunting prospect of going through a long divorce process, some have chosen to mediate their cases before a neutral, experienced mediator in order to save on attorneys fees and come to a quicker resolution. However, even if the parties went to mediation, the parties would still have to sign a Marital Settlement Agreement. Until that is signed and entered by a judge as part of a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, there is a possibility that one of the parties could change their minds.

The other alternative would be binding arbitration. Like mediation, the parties would avoid a formal trial before a trial court and a drawn out divorce. However, unlike mediation, a decision by an arbitrator is final. As such, even if you’re unhappy with the arbitrator’s decision, judicial review is very limited.

This unfortunate event occurred in a recent case of In re the Marriage of Haleas, 2017 IL App (2d) 160799 from DuPage County. In that case, the parties went to arbitration for five days with the Honorable Michele F. Lowrance (Ret.) of JAMS arbitration. The arbitrator heard five days of hearing and presentation of a “substantial amount of evidence and testimony” and issued a 70-page decision. The Husband filed a motion in court to admit the arbitrator’s decision as final and the trial court entered the decision as final over the Wife’s objection. The Wife appealed the decision stating that the arbitrator failed to properly classify some of Husband’s business as marital and failed to properly award maintenance.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court decision stating that its judicial review powers of an arbitration award is very limited and Wife’s arguments consisted of the substance of the decision and not the validity of the arbitration itself. In other words, Wife did not argue that there was any substantial justice in the arbitration process itself. As a result, the fact that she disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision was irrelevant.

Depending on the facts of your case, arbitration may be a good option. There is a finality to the case which is not true of mediation or trial court decisions. However, if you would like there to be more opportunities to change your mind or to appeal a decision, I would stay far far away from arbitration.

  • Download our Divorce Planning Guide today!
  • Download our Divorce Planning Guide today!

    Get the information you need to prepare for divorce with our free resource Guide to Planning for Your Divorce.

    click to download now!

What Our clients are saying

Excellent - I highly recommend Kimberly Anderson. She is knowledgeable, assertive, and experienced. What impressed me most about Kim is her dedication. I was able to reach her whenever there was a problem. She always responded immediately, proposed a solution, and put me at ease. The entire legal team at Anderson & Boback is superb.

Lisa March 29, 2018

  • Why Choose Anderson & Boback ?

  • ASLA Badge - Kimberly Anderson 2018
    BBB A+ Badge
    lawyers of distinction badge
    AVVO 10 Rating badge - generic
    Super Lawyers Generic badge

Schedule a Discreet Consultation Today!



  • firm overview Anderson & Boback

  • Anderson & Boback is a highly-respected, experienced Chicago family law firm, skilled in negotiation and litigation. When divorce and other family law issues make your life chaotic and uncertain, you want your case resolved as quickly and fairly as possible. Call Now 312-715-0870