Family law arbitration – and other methods of dispute resolution compared

Family law arbitration has only been running since February 2012 and is considered by many family lawyers to have considerable advantages over other methods of dispute resolution especially for divorce and civil partnership dissolution. Nonetheless, we recognise that with such a new scheme, many people will question why it should be used over more established methods. This blog post should answer some of those questions.

I’ve heard about family arbitration, family mediation and collaborative law – what’s the difference?

Whilst the objective of these various methods is broadly the same – settling a separation amicably out of court – the methods used are different. Collaborative law encourages the two parties and their solicitors to sit down together and negotiate a settlement which can be extremely effective for couples who feel that they can still co-operate. Family mediation uses a mediator who facilitates discussion between the two parties helping them to reach an agreement between themselves. An arbitrator has a very similar role to a mediator, however the arbitrator makes the final decision and it is legally binding.

Can family law arbitration be combined with another method of dispute resolution?

One of the key advantages of family arbitration is its flexibility. If a divorce or civil partnership dissolution goes to court, every aspect of the divorce will be judged upon meaning that parties cannot pick and choose which issues they negotiate. By contrast, family law arbitration allows you to discuss only the financial or property issues which parties wish to use the arbitrator for, leaving other matters out of the discussions.

Therefore, arbitration can be used in conjunction with court proceedings. Whereas the court may be asked to rule on childcare arrangements, the arbitrator may be asked to make a judgement about any financial provisions for the children for example.

The court process will often require a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing or FDR, which looks to establish an agreement between the families before a final judgement is made. Similarly, before an arbitrator makes a judgement, divorce solicitors may arrange an FDR in private so reach a financial settlement.

Family law arbitration is, we believe, such an exciting form prospect to resolve family problems that we have booked in Mark Eyles, one of our divorce law solicitors, to train as a family law arbitrator in the next couple of months.