Arbitration is a system of dispute resolution in which the parties choose the person who is to decide their dispute. An arbitrator (unlike a mediator or early neutral evaluator) has the power to make decisions which bind the parties to virtually the same extent as a Judge in court. Arbitration is very well established in commercial and construction disputes as an alternative to the court process but has only recently become possible in disputes between family members about money and property. Issues about the parenting of children cannot be arbitrated.

Disputes which are suitable for family arbitration include:

  • The financial consequences of divorce (or dissolution of civil partnership).
  • Children’s maintenance.
  • Disputes about property ownership.
  • Disputes under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Financial claims after a foreign divorce.

Arbitration has many advantages over the court process:

  • The parties can choose their arbitrator.
  • The parties can agree the procedure to be used: for instance, whether to have a hearing or to have the decision made without a hearing.
  • The parties can agree what is to be arbitrated. This may be the entire dispute, or it may just be one issue which is holding up negotiations.
  • The arbitration can take place either before or at any stage during the court process.
  • It can take place anywhere the parties agree. Our arbitrators are happy to travel.
  • It is quick. Subject to the arbitrator’s availability, the timetable is in the hands of the parties.
  • It is confidential.

Although arbitration may seem more expensive than the court process because the parties have to pay the arbitrator, the saving of time and the ability to agree procedure will mean that in many cases there is an overall saving of cost: especially (but not only) if many issues are agreed and the arbitration is limited in scope.

Not all disputes are suitable for arbitration because an arbitrator does not have all the powers a Judge has. This needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Please contact the Senior Clerk, James Shortall, for further information.

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