The role of Arbitration in family law

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution approach that can avoid the time, cost and stress of resolving issues in the courtroom

While some divorcing couples are able to resolve their issues using mediation or collaborative law, some may struggle to reach an agreement in specific areas, such as financial or children matters. In this instance, arbitration can be a timely and cost-effective way to reach a divorce settlement without going to court.


What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process in which the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator, who is a suitably qualified person (usually an experienced family lawyer or retired judge), to hear and decide on their case, in the same way that a judge would do in the courtroom. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on the parties in the same way as a Court Order, with very limited grounds for appeal. Arbitration can be used to resolve financial, and children matters. Most importantly, it can lead to such matters being resolved within a matter of weeks, rather than many months as you would expect in court proceedings.


Who is arbitration most suitable for?

Arbitration is perhaps most appropriate for cases where there is a degree of co-operation between the parties, but where a settlement is unlikely to be reached without a final decision being made for them on one or more issues.  Arbitration is less likely to be appropriate where there are concerns about one party hiding assets, or where there are third parties who need to give evidence.


What are the main advantages of arbitration?

Advantages include:

  • The parties get to choose the decision-maker from a panel of arbitrators, rather than having a decision-maker appointed for them. They can also choose the date and time of any hearings.
  • The parties can ensure that there is continuity, with the same arbitrator dealing with the case from start to finish.
  • The parties have greater control as to the procedure to be followed, such as what evidence is required. The parties can also decide whether they want all matters to be dealt with by the arbitrator, or whether they simply want a few distinct issues determined.
  • Arbitration is a confidential process, which can be very beneficial to high profile parties who are concerned about the media reporting on the dispute.
  • Arbitration can proceed far more quickly than court proceedings, leading to a swift conclusion and avoiding unnecessary delays.
  • Although the parties have to pay for the arbitrator, given the ability to adapt the procedure, limit the issues and reduce delays, there can be a significant cost saving over court proceedings.
  • The arbitrator will be solely focused on your case, as opposed to having other cases to deal with on the same day as well.
  • Arbitration tends to be a more informal process than court, which can make it less stressful.


If you think arbitration might be suitable for you, please come and talk to us

We offer an initial no obligation one-hour appointment for just £50 (Incl. VAT), so you can talk through the options specific to your personal circumstances with a qualified lawyer.

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