Alternatives to court-based litigation are gaining popularity. One option is arbitration. Family arbitration ensures an independent and binding decision without attending court. Both parties must sign an agreement to appoint a qualified family arbitrator and both parties agree to be bound by the written decision of the arbitrator. The decision is called an ‘award’ for a financial case and a ‘determination’ if it is a child-related case.
Arbitration is operated by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA). Arbitrators are usually experienced barristers and solicitors who are examined after completing an extensive training course. Their decisions are bound by the law of England and Wales – just the same as a decision at a court hearing.
Why use arbitration?
- The timetable is determined by the parties and their chosen arbitrator and is usually much faster than the traditional court timetable. Hearings are at low risk of being adjourned due to lack of court time or judicial availability. A hearing will usually take less time in arbitration than at court.
- The process is strictly confidential.
- Costs are managed differently to a traditional court hearing. The parties jointly pay for the arbitrator and there might be a cost to hire the venue. However, because it is possible to limit the disclosure provided, and to focus the issues in dispute, using arbitration will be a cost-effective option for many cases.
- At a court hearing the parties cannot choose their judge but in arbitration you can jointly select your arbitrator. (IFLA have a solution where parties cannot agree who should arbitrate). An arbitration can take place on ‘paper only’ therefore saving both parties a significant amount of legal costs and taking away the need to attend a formal court hearing. Alternatively, the arbitrator can hear evidence and submissions from legal advisors before making their decision.
- The arbitration process belongs to the parties involved and together, with their legal representatives, they determine the process that would best enable them to resolve their case. Once selected, the arbitrator stays with the case until the end.
Can arbitration and mediation work together?
Yes! A mediator might recommend arbitration if mediation breaks down or if an agreement is reached in mediation on most, but not all, of the issues. Unlike court proceedings, arbitration can be used to determine a single issue.
Arbitration is not suitable for every case, but it is a useful option for clients when deciding how they wish to resolve their case. Litigation is expensive, stressful, and time-consuming. Mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration are other options worth exploring. Our team will be able to discuss with you which route would best suit your individual case.
If you would like to talk to someone, please contact any of our offices.