Family Arbitration – What is it?

Family arbitration was only introduced to the UK in early 2012 and it already looks like becoming a popular way of settling family issues without the need for the law courts. This method of dispute resolution, led by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) is most effective when used for divorce, civil partnership dissolution and separations, and couples will find it to be of particular use for settling financial disputes.

The family arbitration process

So how does it work? The family arbitration process allows couples to choose a venue to hold talks about their issues and a Family Arbitrator (who in most cases will be a family lawyer with the relevant additional qualifications). This Arbitrator is tasked with facilitating negotiations between the two parties, processing the information elicited during discussions, before making a final judgement which will be legally binding and final (like that of a court judge). Once appointed, this Arbitrator is locked in to the case and obliged to continue overseeing proceedings until a final agreement is reached between the couple.

How can family arbitration be used?

The key points of contention over finances and property which would be settled during divorce court proceedings can all be settled with family arbitration. In fact, family arbitration can be said to give divorcing couples much greater flexibility over their separation because they choose the issues which they wish to decide using arbitration. Therefore, they might decide to only discuss financial issues, or restrict their talks to the division of property. By contrast, when a divorce goes to court, the court will rule on every issue involved in divorce.

Family arbitration – common uses

Below are some common examples of matters settled using family arbitration:

• Financial disputes over the division of assets and savings

• Inheritance issues

• The division of property and possible division of proceeds from the sale of the matrimonial home

• Financial provision for any children involved

There is no doubt that family arbitration will help many couples separate faster, more cost effectively and more amicably than they may have done in court. It is worth noting that legal aid is not available for such proceedings but the positives nevertheless appear to outweigh the negatives.

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