Plaintiff appeals as of right the trial court’s March 6, 2019 judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce, among other things, incorporated the awards pertaining to spousal support, property division, and costs and fees that had been determined through arbitration. On appeal, plaintiff challenges the validity of the arbitration award. We affirm.
Plaintiff first argues that the arbitration award is void because there was no active case at the circuit court at the time of the arbitration proceedings. We disagree. This issue is unpreserved because plaintiff first raised it in a motion for reconsideration. We review unpreserved issues for plain error affecting substantial rights. Relevant to this issue, plaintiff filed his complaint in the 2016 case on September 30, 2016. On August 15, 2017, while the case was still active, the parties stipulated to the entry of an order that submitted the matter to arbitration. The parties also executed an arbitration agreement that same day. In both the order and the arbitration agreement, the parties acknowledged that the arbitrator was to render rulings related to spousal support, property division, and costs and fees. Thereafter, on October 3, 2017, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of the case in circuit court. The order stated that the parties agreed to “stipulate to the dismissal of the above cause for divorce for the reason that they have entered into an Order for Binding Arbitration.” Consistent with the parties’ declared intentions, arbitration hearings were conducted, which resulted in an arbitration award. Plaintiff now contends that the award is void because there was no active case pending at the circuit court at the time of the arbitration hearings. Plaintiff has cited no authority that supports this proposition. At the time plaintiff and defendant stipulated to binding arbitration, there was an active circuit court case, which made plaintiff and defendant “parties.” The fact that the case was later dismissed, before the arbitration proceedings commenced, simply is of no moment. Indeed, the parties had explicitly agreed that “either party may file a motion to reinstate this case if it is dismissed . . . prior to receipt of the arbitration award or prior to entry of the Judgment of Divorce.” In sum, the crux of plaintiff’s argument is that the arbitration was void for lack of authority. But an arbitrator derives her authority from the parties’ arbitration agreement. The parties’ arbitration agreement, which was entered into while there was an active case, was not affected by the dismissal of the divorce action. Therefore, plaintiff has failed to show how the arbitration was void or without authority.
ADVICE TO CLIENTS FACING SPOUSAL SUPPORT ISSUES IN DIVORCE CASES
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