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An arbitrator is a neutral third party that oversees the alternative dispute resolution method of arbitration. While arbitration as a whole is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, the requirements to become an arbitrator are determined exclusively by state law. 

For example, to be an arbitrator in Cook County, Illinois, a person must be a lawyer. In New York, however, non-attorneys can also become arbitrators so long as they have relevant experience to disputes. 

Disputes undergoing arbitration can be overseen by either a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. These arbitrators have the authority to bind both parties to the remedies or courses of action determined through arbitration. That said, an arbitrator’s decision can be overturned if a party can show that the arbitrator was clearly partial, corrupt, or guilty of other misconduct.  

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]