When parents separate they will need to resolve issues about where the children should live, time spent with each parent and other family members, schooling etc. When parents disagree there are a number of ways of solving the issues. It used to be either via mediation and if that didn’t work out then as a last resort an application is made to the Family Court. However, since July of this year Family Arbitration has been available as an alternative route.
What is Family Arbitration?
Couples agree to use an Arbitrator (a bit like having your own private Judge) to make a decision over the issues in dispute which will be legally binding but without the need of going to court. An Arbitrator will be a qualified expert in Children Law.
Like a court hearing both parties will get to present their case before the Arbitrator in an informal setting chosen by the couple themselves or they could present their evidence in writing. The Arbitrator’s written decision (known as a “Determination”), with detailed reasons, is sent to the couple and is legally binding. There is only a limited right to appeal against the Arbitrator’s decision.
What are the benefits of Children Arbitration?
Speed: Couples agree the timetable of each stage of Arbitration and the parties will usually need to attend only one hearing. Court delays are getting worst and in some parts of the country it may be months before the court can list a hearing. In a very recent children arbitration case it took just ten days from start to finish to sort out the issues in dispute!
Arbitration allows the parties to resolve disputes without the delay and expense of the court process which is daunting to many and places further strain on already fractured relationships.
Continuity: In the Family Court, a case can be heard by a number of Judges. By contrast the same chosen Arbitrator will deal with the case from start to finish which means that they will gain a greater understanding of the parents, children and issues involved.
Flexibility: The parties can choose with the Arbitrator where and when to meet which will be an informal, less daunting setting than a court room. The hearing can be during the evenings or at the weekend.
Confidentiality: The hearing will be private and the media are excluded from hearings so there is no possibility of the case being reported.
Of course, using family arbitration doesn’t negate the need for legal advice. In fact, the most effective arbitration hearings are where the couple are very clear on the legal issues involved and have been advised by their respective lawyers on the relevant points of law. If you need help selecting an arbitrator or advice during the arbitration process any of the Woolley & Co lawyers would be happy to help.
Family law solicitor Bournemouth