What is arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of private dispute resolution where each person enters into an agreement under which they appoint a suitably qualified person (an ‘arbitrator’) to resolve a dispute fairly and impartially.
In 2012 the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) launched a scheme to enable family disputes to be resolved by arbitration. The arbitration scheme is conducted under the arbitration rules and allows divorcing couples to agree on appointing their own arbitrator or have one selected for them from a panel of approved arbitrators.
The scheme covers financial disputes arising from:
- Claims on inheritance from a child, spouse etc;
- Claims for child maintenance between unmarried couples;
- Disputes about ownership of a property between cohabiting couples and civil partnership disputes.
Disputes will be resolved exclusively by applying the laws of England and Wales in the same way as the family courts.
The IFLA developed the arbitration scheme to enable parties to resolve financial disputes more quickly, cheaply and in a flexible, less formal setting than that of a court room. The flexibility and confidential nature of arbitration combined with the time and costs savings associated with it can make arbitration one of the best choices for some situations.
Why choose arbitration?
Arbitration can have many advantages over the more traditional court focused methods of dispute resolution as it is a private and confidential process. It is not open to the public or the press which makes it particularly suitable for resolving sensitive or highly confidential matters.
It is a voluntary process but once started, it will deliver an outcome that will bind both parties. Rather than focus on helping people reach an agreement the family arbitrator will impose an outcome and each person will be bound by the arbitrator’s decision, even if it is one with which they disagree.
During the process the arbitrator will aim to settle the dispute fairly and avoid unnecessary delay or expense. Each person can choose to be represented at the arbitration meetings by a solicitor, a barrister or a friend but the process does not require this and in some cases people may decide to represent themselves. However, the involvement of existing professional advisers is very valuable to the process and leads to a better experience for everyone involved.
The process starts with the arbitrator providing written information to each person. A formal first meeting takes place where each person and the arbitrator identify the information that is required to progress the case. Once this stage has been completed a hearing is held at which evidence is provided and each person presents their case. The arbitrator will then deliver a final award which binds the parties.
The timing of arbitration can be tailored to suit individual requirements unlike the court imposed timetable. Unlike the court process the parties will have the same arbitrator throughout for all the hearings. This means that the process can move forward in a focused and therefore more economic way, to benefit everyone involved.
How much does arbitration cost?
The flexible nature of arbitration can make it a quicker, cheaper and a far less formal process than other methods of dispute resolution. Arbitrators will discuss and agree their fees prior to commencing the arbitration and in some cases a fixed price arrangement may be suitable.
If you’re interested in arbitration a list of qualified family arbitrators and can be found on the IFLA’s website.
For more information and advice on arbitration, please contact our specialist Family Law team on 0161 475 7676 or get in touch via our contact form.