We have a lot to celebrate with the recent launch of the new
Children Law Arbitration Scheme. Thanks to the introduction of this
new form of dispute resolution, arbitration can be used in children
cases to find fast, effective and flexible solutions.
Working with Jonathan Tecks and Janet Bazley QC, I have been
proud to create the scheme, which specifically caters for family
disputes in relation to children. We are confident that its success
will mirror that of the Financial Scheme that has carried out over
100 arbitrations for families, in just four years of existence.
The scope of the scheme is wide, for example the arbitrator can
determine where and with whom the child lives (unless relating to
children living outside England and Wales) and issues in relation
to the child's welfare such as schooling or routine medical
treatments. In comparison to other alternatives to litigation, such
as mediation, the outcome or arbitration is a legally binding
award, which can be made into a court order if needed.
40 arbitrators have been trained to specialise in Children Law
cases and he/she will deal with all stages of the case until a
resolution is found.
The advantages of Children Arbitration are vast, but, crucially,
include greater control over the process for the family, ensured
confidentiality and greater choice in terms of venue, timetable and
choice of arbitrator. In addition, it's been written with the
interests of the children at its centre. It has been carefully
created to ensure that arbitrators are aware of any potential
safeguarding issues and the safety of the children involved is
Unlike a Judge in court, an arbitrator will not meet or
interview the relevant child. Instead an independent social worker,
who can be appointed by the arbitrator or agreed between the
parties, will be instructed. The independent social worker will
then inform the arbitrator of the child's wishes and
In any family litigation, parties and their representatives are
likely to want to avoid delay – the longer that matters
remain unresolved, the more unsettling and also costly it can be as
interim measures need to be put in place and any changes must be
disclosed to the other side. However, avoiding delay is often
fundamental when it comes to disputes concerning children –
the number of months it may take for an application to be heard in
the court system becomes all the more significant in the context of
a child's young age. Arbitration is quicker than litigation as
the parties are able to take control of the timetable. That is why
it is so important that there is now an opportunity to use
arbitration for children issues.
It is particularly pertinent that the Scheme is being launched
at the beginning of the Summer holidays. This can be an especially
fraught time for separating couples trying to divide up the holiday
between them, or where there are disputes that they need to be
resolved before the start of a new school year.
Disputes in relation to children are difficult for all involved,
especially the children. I am hopeful that this new Scheme will
help parents to find solutions quickly and effectively to enable
them to parent together in the future.
If you're interested in finding out more on how Children
Arbitration will positively change the outlook for children
disputes, click here to read an article I have written
for The Times Law and listen here to my podcast.
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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