On May 8, 2024, Governor Josh Shapiro signed into law Act 2024-12, House Bill 917.  The new law takes effect 60 days upon enactment.  This legislation establishes a family law arbitration process and procedure in the Judicial Code.

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution in which the parties submit issues incident to their divorce and support[1] to a neutral person for resolution outside of the traditional court system.  In deciding whether to submit the issues incident to your divorce to arbitration, one should consider the pros and cons.   In many cases, the positive aspects of this alternative outweigh the negative.


  • The parties control the process — selecting when and where the arbitration will take place as opposed to being bound by the court calendar.
  • The parties select the arbitrator.
  • The arbitrator selected will typically have years of family law experience and will be highly qualified to resolve the disputes. In contrast, many judges never practiced family law and don’t have the same depth of experience.
  • The process is typically less formal than in a traditional courtroom setting.
  • The resolution will be faster than any resolution through the traditional court system, which in most counties in Pennsylvania is multi-tier and equitable distribution, support, and custody are handled separately. The arbitration hearing will be scheduled sooner and completed, usually in one day, with a decision in usually 30 – 60 days.
  • The parties avoid the delays inherent in the court system and avoid often multiple court appearances. Many times other cases are listed at the same time as your case and in the case of complex issues, the judge or hearing officer does not have the time needed to devote to your case.
  • The rules of evidence are not strictly adhered to (see also under disadvantage).
  • The parties decide what issues will be submitted to the arbitrator.
  • There is usually no court record or transcript of the proceeding, which is advantageous if either party has issues which they wish to remain private.
  • The overall cost is reduced because you are not paying your attorney to attend multiple court appearances/hearings.
  • With the exception of child support and child custody awards, which are subject to judicial review, the arbitrator’s decision is binding on the parties and not appealable, except in very limited cases such as corruption, fraud or undue means.
  • Because the decision is binding, both parties avoid the long and expensive appeal process.


  • The arbitrator is paid by the parties whereas the judicial officers are paid by local and state government, although most counties have filing fees equating to approximately $500 to have your domestic relations claims heard. However, as stated above, the overall cost is less because of the efficiencies inherent in the arbitration system.
  • Because the arbitrator’s decision is binding, a spouse who is not happy with the result is bound by the decision whether he or she likes it or not, except in limited and rare circumstances.
  • The rules of evidence are not strictly adhered to (see also under advantage).

If you are not certain if your matter would be appropriate to arbitrate you should consult with your attorney who can guide you as to the best forum to resolve your family law disputes.

[1] The new law does not permit an arbitrator to make an award which (1) grants a divorce or annulment; (2) terminates parental rights; (3) grants an adoption or a guardianship or a child or incapacitated individual; or (4) determines the status of a child under Title 42, Chapter 63 (relating to juvenile matters).