Long awaited changes expanding the scope of arbitration to cover disputes over child arrangements have recently been announced by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators.
Arbitration in general is an excellent way of dealing with disagreements as it provides a much greater degree of flexibility than the traditional court process (see Jargon Buster: Arbitration).
A common misconception concerning arbitration is that it is essentially the same as mediation. This is far from the truth, as although mediation is an excellent method of dispute resolution it hinges on parties’ negotiations and in some circumstances an agreement simply cannot be reached. Arbitration allows for much greater flexibility than the court process, with parties deciding on the how the process will be conducted, but with the arbitrator able to decide on any remaining contentious issues. This means parties are guaranteed to receive a decision by the arbitrator.
The Institute for Family Law Arbitrators lists the following key benefits of arbitration:
- The selection of the decision maker
- The direct continuous involvement of the decision maker
- Flexibility and individual choice of adjudication process
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Avoidance of court delays and standardization
- Use for discrete issues of a case (i.e. the issues parties cannot agree upon)
An award in arbitration will be recognised and upheld by the court other than in exceptional circumstances.
Although arbitration for family law has existed for a number of years in England and Wales, it has centered on resolution of financial claims. This will soon be expanded to cover disputes in relation to arrangements for children. This will fall under the new Children Scheme, administered by Resolution (the national organisation of family lawyers committed to a non-confrontational approach to family matters).
It remains to be seen how popular arbitration will become in children matters and how the process will cope with the need for safeguarding checks to be carried out before the court can approve an order.
At Slater Heelis all of our family lawyers are members of Resolution. We are committed to work towards the best possible outcome for every client.
For more information or assistance, please contact our Family Team on 0161 969 3131.