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The Indiana Family Law Arbitration Act

Divorcing couples in Indiana may sign an agreement to arbitrate under the Family Law Arbitration Act (FLAA). I.C. 34-57-5-1. The FLAA allows the parties involved in a dissolution of marriage to resolve their disputes through arbitration rather than in a trial before a judge. The law outlines the responsibilities and role that the arbitrator in such a proceeding.

While not widely known and arguably underutilized, the use of arbitration in family law cases can save the parties time and financial resources. See also, e.g., Ind. A.D.R. 6.3(B) (noting that a private judge has the same power as a circuit judge including deciding the outcome of case); see also Koval v. Simon Telelect, Inc., 693 N.E.2d 1299, 1307 (Ind. 1998). The FLAA allows a broad range of family law matters to be submitted to arbitration; including, the entire dissolution or only certain parts of it (like child support, custody, or parenting time, or petitions to modify any decree, judgment, or orders entered under Indiana Code Title 31). Brockmann v. Brockmann, 938 N.E.2d 831, 835 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied. The FLAA is designed to resolve issues and avoid open-ended agreements to encompass future issues that may arise between the parties. Consequently, if the parties enter into an arbitration agreement for their cause or a particular issue, then they are bound to resolve those issues through arbitration. Id.

While the Indiana Legislature passed, and obviously values, the use of arbitration in family law, it apparently has concerns about its scope and application to other areas of the law. The Legislature expressly stated that it does not want appellate court decisions applying the FLAA to other areas of the law where arbitration might be used; perhaps in employment or business contexts. See I.C. § 34–57–5–1(a) (“An appellate court opinion interpreting or construing this chapter has precedential value only for family law arbitrations and does not apply to any other type of arbitration.”).

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