Arbitration is an alternative form of dispute resolution to the traditional court process, which can often be beset by delays, exacerbating the costs and stress involved for those concerned.
By contrast, arbitration involves separated or divorcing couples entering into an agreement whereby they jointly appoint an arbitrator to determine how their dispute should be resolved. The arbitrator is usually a judge or barrister with considerable experience in family law, who has undergone further rigorous training to become an arbitrator.
Divorcing couples agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision, which is legally binding and commonly referred to as an ‘Award’ in the case of financial matters, and a ‘Determination’ in relation to children matters.
The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) is responsible for administering the arbitration process and offers a Financial Arbitration Scheme and a Children Arbitration Scheme. The Financial Arbitration Scheme can be used to resolve financial and property disputes arising from the breakdown of a relationship or marriage, financial provision for children and inheritance disputes.
The Children Arbitration Scheme can be used to resolve the arrangements for children to spend time with and / or live with each parent, as well as address specific issues such as, where a child should be educated, what medical treatment they should receive, and whether they should be allowed to go on holiday abroad with one parent.
There are many benefits to arbitration:
The parties can choose which arbitrator they would like to appoint based on their specialist experience. Once appointed, the parties have the same arbitrator from the start to the finish of the case. By contrast, parties engaged in the court process have no say as which judge rules on their case, and there is also no guarantee that they will have the same judge at each stage of the proceedings.
Particularly in the case of financial disputes, couples can determine which issues they would like to resolve. As with court proceedings, it may be that they wish to resolve all financial issues. Alternatively, they may wish to limit the scope of those issues, say for example to pensions and property only. This option for selectivity in the arbitration process can ultimately save time and allow couples more time to negotiate with each other or seek the adjudication of the arbitrator.
The parties can determine the pace at which the arbitration process takes place subject to the arbitrator’s availability. This means they can often be resolved more quickly than court cases, in which hearings can be adjourned at short notice owing to an overburdened court system or judicial unavailability.
Together with the arbitrator, the couples have total flexibility as to the timing, regularity and place of their hearings.
Along with any legal advice they receive from solicitors, couples pay for the arbitrator’s fees, the cost of any venue that is booked for hearings, and the cost to have a transcription of the hearing, if necessary. The ability, however, to create a bespoke dispute resolution process, which may reduce the amount of disclosure / evidence required, means that their legal costs may be lower than what is usually expended in the court process. In certain cases, parties and / or the arbitrator can also agree to determine the arbitration process on paper only, which can help to further reduce costs.
In accordance with the rules of both IFLA Schemes, the arbitration process is protected by strict rules of confidentiality, giving parties the reassurance of knowing that their affairs will remain private.
If you would like any advice on separation or divorce, we offer an initial no obligation consultation for £50 (incl. VAT) for up to one hour, where you can chat to a family lawyer about the impact it may have on your specific circumstances. To book, please call us on 01444 472700, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form below.
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