What is family arbitration?
Family arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process that can assist couples obtain a resolution to issues they are not able to resolve themselves.
Below, we look at what family law arbitration is, who it might be suitable for, what the benefits are and how it works when you go through the process.
What is family law arbitration?
Family law arbitration is a form of dispute resolution process where a couple in dispute about a financial settlement upon a divorce or child arrangements appoint a neutral accredited arbitrator to make a decision on their behalf.
Both parties sign up to an agreement beforehand that they will abide by the decision of the arbitrator, and a form of order will be drawn up that at the conclusion of the arbitration process making the decision binding on the couple.
The family arbitration process is often used as an alternative to pursuing court proceedings in order to resolve issues, and there can be several benefits in adopting this approach instead.
The benefits of arbitration in family law
Some of the benefits of using the arbitration process in a family law dispute include:
- The family arbitration process is usually considerably quicker, from start to finish, than going to court.
- Consequently, even though an arbitrator is effectively a private judge and their fees have to be paid by the partis, family arbitration can be more cost-effective than going to court to resolve the issue(s).
- Family arbitration is confidential, so no reporters can be present during hearings and no details of what is said or decided upon can be released to the media.
- Family arbitration is a flexible bespoke process in comparison to court proceedings. The location and dates of hearings can be agreed between the couple, rather than relying on the court to allocate time for hearings etc.
- Family arbitration enables the parties to appoint an arbitrator who has experience on the issues in their particular case.
- The family arbitration process ensures that the couple use the same arbitrator throughout their case so that there is consistency for them.
What happens in family arbitration?
The couple agree on the appointment of an accredited arbitrator to make decisions on the specific issues that they have. The arbitrator is appointed to deal with all the hearings necessary in the case and can deal with issues on paper without the parties having to attend or at a face to face or remote hearings. The parties still have to provide evidence as directed by the arbitrator, but the process can be tailored to the couple’s specific needs. The arbitrator’s decision is final and the couple agree to be bound to it.
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How does family arbitration work?
Arbitration can be flexible, managed around the requirements of the parties involved, but will usually follow a structure similar to the below:
- The parties agree on an arbitrator to deal with their dispute and agree that they will be bound by the arbitrator’s decision.
- The parties then agree how the arbitrator’s will be paid between them.
- Both parties meet with their legal teams to prepare information and evidence for the hearing(s) as directed by the arbitrator or agreed between them.
- The location and dates for the hearing(s) are agreed around everyone’s availability and set.
- One or more hearings take place, where the arbitrator reviews all of the information and may hear evidence before making a decision on the matter(s) in hand.
- Once the arbitrator has made their decision, a document is drawn up outlining the terms their decision which is then binding on the parties.
How long does family arbitration take?
The duration of family arbitration can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of the parties to reach an agreement. It can range from a few months to several years.
What is family arbitration most suitable for?
Family law arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process that can be suited to a variety of issues arising out of a divorce or separation, such as resolving the finances or making decision on child arrangements for any children. It can be used in support of other dispute resolution processes such as mediation or the collaborative law approach if a couple gets stuck on a discreet issue and need a decision to be made for them on a single aspect in dispute. They can then revert to mediation for example to resolve any outstanding issues between them.
How Moore Barlow can help
If you want to find out more family arbitration or other alternative dispute resolution processes, get in touch with the team at Moore Barlow or explore our full legal service offering.
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