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/ 11 Nov 2022

Is family arbitration right for me?

Family arbitration is a private and voluntary form of alternative dispute resolution. It enables parties experiencing family breakdown to resolve disputes more quickly, confidentially and in a more flexible and less formal setting than a court room. With the current delays experienced by parties in most family courts across England and Wales, the appeal of a faster way to resolve family disputes is undeniable.

What does family arbitration involve?

The family arbitration process, in many ways, is like going to court.  Parties appoint an independent and impartial third party (‘the arbitrator’), who will make a decision that will be final and legally binding between the parties.

Arbitrators can make decisions on some child-related issues arising from relationship breakdown and financial or property disputes.

What are the benefits of Family Arbitration?

Most people experiencing relationship breakdown want their dispute to be dealt with swiftly, cheaply, privately and with as little acrimony, as possible. If you need your dispute resolved by a third party, but want to retain as much ownership of the process as possible, then arbitration has several distinct advantages compared with litigating in court:

  • Freedom to select your Arbitrator – you can choose an arbitrator best suited to the circumstances of your case, whereas in court proceedings you cannot choose the Judge.
  • It provides consistency –unlike in court proceedings where you can find yourself before a different judge for each hearing, the appointed arbitrator alone deals with the dispute from start to finish.
  • You can control the process – you can keep control of the whole process and progress at your own pace, not at the speed the court dictates.Family Arbitration can also be used at any stage of the litigation if court proceedings have started.
  • It’s quick – From start to finish, family arbitration will take substantially less time than contested court proceedings, and the timetable can be easily tailored to suit you.
  • It’s convenient – the date, time and place of any hearing is selected by you and your appointed family arbitrator – not the court.  
  • It’s versatile – you can appoint an arbitrator to decide on one or more discrete issues (such as which party should keep a particular property or whether there should be a ‘clean break’), unlike in court-based proceedings where the whole issue must be looked at.
  • You could save money – Family arbitration will incur certain costs, including the arbitrator’s fees and venue hire. However, this may be cheaper than contested court proceedings where you will have to pay for multiple court hearings and counsels fees.

Is family arbitration right for me?

Arbitration is particularly suited to parties who find negotiations have come to a stall, there is no chance of compromise and you see your dispute progressing to a final consented hearing.

Whether or not court proceedings have started, arbitration can be used following unsuccessful mediation, collaborative law processes, a round table meeting or inter solicitor negotiations.

Therefore, arbitration is right for parties who need a decision to be made by a third party, who want to avoid the stress, delay, and uncertainty involved with court proceedings, but who seek to retain a degree of control over the process.

It should be noted that legal aid is not available for family arbitration.

There are also some situations where arbitration is unlikely to be suitable. For example, where there are allegations of serious non-disclosure, there are particularly complex overseas dimensions or where third parties need to be joined and do not consent.

How can Hanne & Co’s family law team help you?

Our family law solicitors can advise about the process and whether your dispute is suitable for family arbitration. Once arbitration has been chosen as the preferred option, we can approach the other side, with a view to discussing the scope of the dispute, selecting a suitable arbitrator to fit your case and if there is likely to be a hearing, choosing the venue. To proceed the parties must complete and sign the arbitrator’s agreement (using the ARB1 form) and this requires each party to confirm that they have been advised about the implications and effect of the arbitration process.

Contact us today to speak to one of our family lawyers to find out if arbitration is right for you.

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