Arbitration for family law disputes

Josie Hayes web

Arbitration is a relatively new approach to family dispute resolution and involves the parties appointing an arbitrator to make a decision on any financial or property dispute that arises on separation. Arbitration takes place completely outside the court arena. The parties appoint the arbitrator who deals with all stages of the case and the timetable is agreed between the parties giving greater flexibility as to where and when hearings will take place. The entire procedure can be expedited if the parties agree and the delay which is commonplace in traditional court proceedings can be avoided. Arbitration is completely confidential and can be less formal than court proceedings.

In November 2015 during dispute resolution week, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, endorsed arbitration as a method of resolving family law disputes. Heralded as offering speed, flexibility and confidentiality arbitration is an option that should now be seriously considered by those dealing with relationship breakdown.

There had been some concern about the validity of an arbitration award as they are not automatically binding in the same way as an order of the court. However, it is now abundantly clear that arbitration awards can be converted into consent orders that are sealed by the court and they then become legally binding documents. The President of the Family Division’s view is that once an arbitration award has been made, and a consent order reflecting the terms drawn up, it is only in the rarest of cases that it will be appropriate for the judge to do anything other than approve the order.

At Barker Gotelee we can offer a free initial consultation for anyone experiencing relationship breakdown who wishes to consider arbitration or who needs some help and advice.

Josephine Hayes is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email