Family Law Arbitration – an alternative to court
By Amanda Erskine
There are a number of options available to separated couples who cannot negotiate and come to their own resolution over how their finances and assets are to be divided on divorce. Many people may have already heard of mediation – a process which facilitates communication between couples so they can negotiate their own practical solution to their situation. However, not all people have heard of Family Law Arbitration.
Family Law Arbitration is a scheme every couple should consider before they involve the court in their financial affairs. In family arbitration both parties appoint one arbitrator to make a decision, using the law that applies in England and Wales, on any financial and property issues arising from the breakdown of the relationship. Both parties have the flexibility to decide at the outset what they would like the arbitrator to rule on. The arbitrator can decide the whole settlement or they can make a decision on the elements of the settlement which the parties have not been able to agree on themselves.
The arbitrator will deal with all stages of the case from start to finish but the parties have a strong influence over how the proceedings run, for example by deciding on how financial disclosure should take place and where and when any hearings will take place. One other key point of arbitration is that the arbitrator will make a decision that will be final and binding on both parties and there are very limited circumstances where an arbitration award can be challenged.
This flexibility and the fact the parties will get a final decision much more quickly can make arbitration more cost-effective than court. It allows couples going through family breakdown to resolve financial disputes more quickly, confidentially and in a more flexible and less formal setting than in a courtroom.
For anyone experiencing a family breakdown it is important that legal advice is sought from the outset so that parties are fully aware of all the options available to them and the likely costs involved. At Barker Gotelee we can offer a free initial consultation to anyone who requires some advice and assistance on family issues.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.