A recent development could significantly impact how people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania resolve family law disputes: House Bill 917, the Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act (UFLAA), has passed the state House of Representatives and now awaits the governor’s signature.

The UFLAA is a new law that will allow many family law issues to be resolved in an out-of-court arbitration process instead of a traditional courtroom setting. The act saw full bipartisan support throughout its development due to growing interest in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options for family law, and outlines not only a formal framework for opting into arbitration, but also qualifications for arbitrators and the enforceability of arbitration decisions.

While an exact date for the governor's signature is unknown, once enacted, House Bill 917 will establish:

  • Powers of the Arbitrator Under the UFLAA: An arbitrator may make family law related decisions, compel and regulate discovery, determine the admissibility and weight of evidence, issue protective orders preventing disclosure of sensitive financial information, award attorney and expert fees, and impose appropriate sanctions.
  • Child Related Issues: Under the UFLAA, parties can agree to arbitrate child-related disputes, with special considerations and procedures that must be followed.
  • Focus on Efficiency and Privacy: Arbitration can sometimes be faster than litigation and offer a more private setting to resolve sensitive family matters.
  • Focus on Qualifications: The UFLAA sets standards for arbitrator credentials, ensuring that those who make decisions have ample experience in family law.
  • Court Oversight: Arbitration awards will still be subject to court review, offering a layer of protection for both parties.

While the UFLAA has benefits for divorcing parties, the decision as to whether to arbitrate depends on your family law situation and particular dispute. Discussing the specifics of your unique situation with an experienced attorney is crucial to help you understand the new law and whether arbitration is appropriate to your legal situation. Contact us by phone at 215-340-2207 or via email at info@bucksfamilylawyers.com.