Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

How to avoid court if a relationship breaks down

Family breakdown is never easy, especially when coming to an agreement regarding children and finances.  This is compounded if you find yourself going down the route of litigation.  If you do find yourself in this situation, you will want to do all you can to avoid going to court, not least as the court process can be daunting, expensive and heavily delayed.

In these instances, family arbitration is an effective way to resolve a dispute while avoiding court.  Often referred to as ‘private court proceedings’, family arbitration is a much more polished and comfortable experience with both parties agreeing on and paying for a chosen arbitrator to resolve their dispute.  

The key benefits of family arbitration are;

  • Choice of arbitrator

You and your ex-spouse / partner can choose a specialist arbitrator who has the right expertise to deal with your case. Contrastingly, in court proceedings, there is no ability to choose your judge and therefore it is always a concern that they may not have the specialist expertise required to address any complex issues unique to your case.  

  • Speed of process

Arbitration is highly likely to be undertaken and concluded significantly sooner than litigation through the court.

  • Control

Arbitration can offer more flexibility. Together with the arbitrator, both parties can agree a timeline so that key dates are convenient for all involved, and the process can be tailored to suit everyone’s requirements. An arbitrator can decide if the dispute should be dealt with on paper only or if oral representations, usually by a barrister, are required.  If necessary, many arbitrators are happy to hold meetings by video link, which can be especially useful for those based overseas as they don’t have to return to the UK for hearings. 

  • Anonymity

Family arbitration is private and confidential. Unlike court proceedings, there is no possibility of the media knowing about your case.

  • Smooth approach

The arbitrator will deal with the matter from start to finish. This avoids the fragmented approach that can often occur in court proceedings where there is rarely judicial continuity.

The arbitrator will devote far more time to dealing with the case than a judge in court has the ability to do, due to pressures on court time. The arbitrator will have thoroughly read all the papers and will take a detailed approach to resolving the issues. This ensures everyone feels they have been ‘listened to’ and that the decision made by the arbitrator is fair.

  • Cost savings

In court proceedings, there is no payment required for the court’s time to hear the case.  In arbitration, the parties will need to pay for the arbitrator. However the flexibility to streamline the procedure and to conclude the matter more quickly, often leads to significant cost savings.

The decision of the arbitrator is referred to as the “determination” or “award” and is binding upon the parties. The Family Court will not only approve arbitration awards but it will also uphold them so parties have the same finality they would achieve through litigation. 

If you are going through a family breakdown and would like advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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