A relatively new process in family law, arbitration is an alternative to going through the courts. Through this process the parties involved enter into an agreement to appoint a suitably qualified family law ‘arbitrator’ who has the judicial powers to make a formal judgement on a dispute and make a binding decision.
The first step involves both parties signing an agreement to arbitrate and to abide by the rules of the scheme. The parties can either nominate a particular arbitrator or can ask for an arbitrator to be appointed from a specialist panel by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. Parties must agree that the arbitrator’s decision will be final and binding. At this stage, the issues to be arbitrated are summarised.
At Napthens, head of our family department Simon Gledhill is qualified as an arbitrator through the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), which required him to undergo specialist training. He was one of the first lawyers in the North West to obtain this qualification.
Once the arbitrator is appointed, and the parties involved have agreed to the arbitrator’s terms, the process begins. However, there is no formalised, fixed process in place. Rather, the approach is agreed and tailored to the needs of the parties involved, with the arbitrator giving directions on the procedural steps.
Each party can be represented by their own lawyers throughout the process, as they would in a court.
At the end of the process, the arbitrator issues an award, along similar lines to a final judgment in court proceedings. This award is binding.
The rules of the arbitration scheme state that if necessary, the parties will apply to the court for an order in the same terms as the award. It is expected that courts will make enforceable orders that reflect the arbitrator’s award.
Is arbitration right for you?
Arbitration is an option for those couples who are not able to come to an agreement and need a decision to be made – but who wish to avoid the court process. It is not a soft option. The arbitrator will make the award they consider fair and reasonable in the absence of agreement.
There are certain advantages of arbitration over the traditional route of court processes:
- Speed: Subject to availability of all parties involved, the timetable is up to you to agree. This is in contrast to the court process where the timetable is dictated by the busy courts and can take significantly longer.
- Flexibility: A key advantage is that the parties involved agree exactly what needs to be resolved and therefore define the scope of the arbitration themselves. It could be for example, that all differences need to be resolved, or arbitration could be limited to one or two specific issues. This tailored approach enables the process to advance in a focused manner and allows for flexibility, including as to the time and place of hearings.
- Cost: Although the parties involved will need to pay the costs of the arbitrator, there is the prospect that the process will be considerably cheaper than the traditional, more formal route through the courts. This is due to the speed and flexibility with which the case can be handled and the accessibility of the arbitrator.
- Specialist arbitrator: You are able to choose the arbitrator that you want to take you through this process, allowing you to choose a real specialist with relevant experience. This same arbitrator will deal with all stages of your case from start to finish.
- Confidential: The arbitration procedure is entirely confidential, which can be an important consideration for some people at this difficult time.
Contact us today to speak to a member of our family team in confidence about a relationship breakdown or a family issue, or to find out more about family arbitration.