In March the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) was
established and Arbitration, the newest form of Dispute Resolution
in family law was created. The training was spearheaded by Suzanne
Kingston, a partner in our family department and a qualified
Arbitration involves the parties entering into an agreement
under which they appoint a qualified arbitrator to adjudicate a
dispute and make an award.
Arbitration has been introduced at exactly the right time. The
resolution of private family law disputes is at something of a
crisis point. The Court cannot cope with the volume of cases coming
before it. Parties can find themselves tied up in a system for
months if not years with ever increasing legal fees. The government
has registered an acknowledgement of the difficulties. On 19 June
2012 it published its formal response to the Family Justice Review
in which it stated it was seeking to simplify the family justice
system and to help separating couples reach lasting agreements
without going to Court if possible. There is little doubt therefore
that arbitration may have a significant role to play in helping to
improve the current system.
Arbitration is different to other forms of Dispute Resolution
because it will be binding between the parties in the same way as
an order of the Court. This provides the parties with certainty of
outcome. There are limited grounds for appeal. It should be noted
that an arbitration award does not however oust the jurisdiction of
the Court. The Court retains jurisdiction to ratify the arbitration
award (or not, as the case may be) and so an arbitration award will
need to be within accepted parameters set down through the
application of the criteria in S.25 Matrimonial Causes Act
There are numerous benefits of arbitration:
Arbitration can deal with financial and property issues arising
in the family law context but not children issues or issues
pertaining to the status of the marriage.
Arbitration is one of the various forms of Dispute Resolution
offered by our team. Most of our partners are collaborative
lawyers. Diana Parker was one of the original founders of family
mediation and Claire Blakemore and Suzanne Todd join Suzanne
Kingston as qualified mediators. The appropriateness of each option
is considered on a case by case basis but with recent case law
demonstrating a definite shift in favour of individual and
collective autonomy in arranging private family affairs (for
example the pre-nuptial agreement case of Granatino v
Radmacher ) arbitration and other forms of dispute
resolution compliments this approach.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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