Arbitration: Effective Family Dispute Resolution Without A Court Of Law

Duncan Lewis & Co Solicitors


Duncan Lewis Solicitors is an award-winning and Times 200 ranked law firm offering expert services in 25 fields, including family law, business immigration, high net divorce, personal injury, commercial litigation, property law, motoring, education and employment.
Arbitration is an often-overlooked yet highly effective form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that can help separating couple resolve issues without the need costly legal action.
UK Family and Matrimonial
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Arbitration is an often-overlooked yet highly effective form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that can help separating couple resolve issues without the need costly legal action.

The thought of courts and public, inflexible trial ordeals can compound the distress of an already difficult situation, so arbitration may be much less stressful alternative.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process wherein conflicting parties, through mutual agreement, present their dispute to one or more impartial individuals, known as 'arbitrators', who then issue a binding decision. In family law, arbitration offers a means of resolving conflicts related to finances, property, or children during divorce or separation proceedings.

The Arbitration Act 1996 governs arbitration in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and imposes a tribunal to act with fairness and impartiality. The tribunal has the authority to employ procedures tailored to the specific case to minimise delays and costs while ensuring a fair resolution. Unlike the Family Procedure Rules and sometimes the strict and detailed regulations of the Civil Procedure Rules, an arbitration tribunal possesses broad discretion in overseeing the proceedings.

Arbitrations can take place anywhere. Professional organisations specialise in facilitating arbitration hearings, often renting dedicated spaces for the proceedings. Physical attendance before the arbitrator may not always be required, as some cases are resolved solely based on submitted documents. Alternatively, arbitration proceedings may adopt a format similar to court hearings, albeit without the formalities typically observed in court.

There are a number of advantages to choosing to settle a legal dispute through arbitration:

Flexibility and Affordability – Arbitration is often considered more affordable than traditional litigation. Arbitration allows to proceed quickly because the parties are not subject to the usual delay between readiness for trial and hearing date. Hearing dates are fixed in accordance with your priorities and availability and not with a waiting list. The parties can, by agreement, determine the conduct of the proceedings which can lead to streamlining of the procedure which can reduce legal fees and other associated costs.

Finality – Once a decision has been rendered by the arbitrator, the parties are set; they will not have to wait for the outcome of possible appeals, thus avoiding delays and additional worry. This is a definite advantage. Additionally, the grounds for challenging an arbitrator's decision are limited by the Arbitration Act 1996. The decision of the arbitrator is agreed to be final.

Confidentiality – Arbitration offers a unique appeal as a dispute resolution method, contrasting with litigation, due to its private nature. Documents produced for arbitration, including pleadings and witness evidence, remain strictly confidential.

Many people are wary about arbitration as an alternative to court proceedings, often due to concerns about the lack of appeal options for decisions they disagree with. In arbitration, appeals are only permitted if the arbitrator has erred or misapplied the law, rather than simply due to dissatisfaction with the outcome. However, it's worth noting that this limitation applies similarly to court decisions.

Arbitration offers a compelling alternative to traditional litigation, providing parties with a flexible, affordable, and confidential means of resolving your family disputes. By choosing arbitration, individuals and businesses can avoid the public scrutiny and procedural rigidity associated with court proceedings. Instead, they benefit from a streamlined process tailored to their specific needs, with the assurance of a final, binding decision delivered efficiently by an impartial arbitrator. With its emphasis on flexibility, affordability, and confidentiality, arbitration stands as a powerful tool for navigating legal disputes.

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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