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Family arbitration is a form of private dispute resolution in which you and your ex-partner appoint a Family Arbitrator to resolve your dispute.

Family arbitration is the best approach for people who want to resolve a family dispute without the delay and expense of a court process.  It allows you and your ex-partner to engage in a flexible process with complete confidentiality and a knowledge that a binding decision will be made.

A Family Arbitrator will produce a decision after hearing from each of you.  They will act fairly and impartially, giving each of you the opportunity to put forward your view.

Family arbitration applies the law of England and Wales and is unlike other types of dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative law in that you are guaranteed that a decision through an award will be made.

Family arbitration can be used to help separating couples, whether married or not, following the breakdown of relationship to settle the disputes relating to…

  • Finance
  • Property
  • Child maintenance
  • Child Arrangements Orders (formerly known as Residence and Contact applications)

Family arbitration cannot be used for disputes relating to divorce.

Family arbitration, like collaborative law and mediation, is a voluntary process, so both you and your ex-partner have to agree to enter family arbitration.


Why Choose Family arbitration?

Court proceedings can be long, complicated and expensive.  This is particularly with current Government austerity measures, which have resulted in significant court delays.

Family arbitration provides the real alternative through…

  • Speed – family arbitration is likely to be a lot quicker than going to Court and the same person will deal with the dispute from start to finish.  This may mean that some of the case management decisions relating to the family arbitration case may be dealt with by way of email with the Family Arbitrator responding directly.
  • Flexibility – you can choose the venue and arrange meetings for dates and times that suit you.  You can choose your Family Arbitrator.  This means that if you have specific requirements you can find a Family Arbitrator with the specialist knowledge that will help you resolve your dispute.
  • Versatility – you can decide whether the process is document only, conducted by telephone or by face to face meeting.  Issues may be dealt with all at once or one after the other.
  • You can decide whether you want the Family Arbitrator to look at the whole of the dispute or just one part of it.
  • Confidentiality – family arbitration is essentially private.  The media are not entitled to attend the hearings, which are at venues you and your ex-partner agree. Only both of you, your representatives, the Arbitrator and any others agreed will be permitted to be at any arbitration hearing.
  • Legal advice – you can retain your own Lawyer to advise you throughout the process.
  • Costs – Whilst the Family Arbitrator will charge a fee, the process is very likely to be less costly than the Court process.


How Much Does Arbitration Cost?

Family Arbitrator’s fees – You, your ex-partner and the Family Arbitrator will agree the level of the Family Arbitrator’s fees at the start of the process.  Fees are usually based on hourly or daily rates, but may also be arranged on a fixed fee basis.  These costs will normally be shared between you and your ex-partner.

Venue hire – There may be costs involved in hiring a venue for any meeting scheduled as part of the process.  These costs would normally be shared.  Sometimes it is usual to use the offices of the lawyers instructed on a shared basis, provided that their offices hold large enough accommodation.

Independent legal advice fees – It is usually a good idea for both you and your ex-partner to take independent legal advice to help you through the process.  Normally, you and your ex-partner will each pay your own legal fees.

Experts’ fees – You and your ex-partner might require experts to give an opinion as part of the process.  Again, this will be discussed before any expert’s fees are incurred and will normally be shared.

Sarah Mellish has successfully passed the family arbitration training course and is entitled to be admitted to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as a member.

Family arbitration is, therefore, another type of dispute resolution that can be offered by Harney & Wells.  The next blog article will explain how family arbitration works.