Arbitration for Child Arrangements

February 9, 2016, By

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. In this blog we explain what arbitration for child arrangements brings, in comparison to mediation.

Arbitration in general is an excellent way of dealing with disagreements. It provides a much greater degree of flexibility than the traditional court process (see Jargon Buster: Arbitration).

Mediation or arbitration for child arrangements?

A common misconception concerning arbitration is that it is essentially the same as mediation. This is far from the truth. Although mediation is an excellent method of dispute resolution, it hinges on negotiations and sometimes, agreements cannot be reached.

Arbitration allows for much greater flexibility than the court process. Parties can decide how the process will be conducted, with the arbitrator able to decide on any remaining contentious issues. This means that parties are guaranteed to receive a decision by the arbitrator.

The Institute for Family Law Arbitrators lists the following benefits of arbitration for child arrangements and other contentious issues:

  • Selection of the decision maker
  • 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)
  • Speed

An award in arbitration will be recognised and upheld by the court other than in exceptional circumstances.

Arbitration in family law

Although arbitration for family law has existed for years in England and Wales, it has centred on resolving financial claims.

In 2016, this was 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 for child arrangements will be,  and how the process will cope with the need for safeguarding checks to be carried out before the court can approve an order.

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, contact our Family Team on 0161 969 3131 or leave us a message and one of the team will be in touch.