Family Arbitration Put Forward as a Fast-Track Financial Dispute Solution

Reforms planned by the foremost family law judge will allow divorcing couples to use a fast-track “private” justice system to resolve their financial split. Sir James Mumby, who is the President of the Family Division of the High Court, is set to issues a set of draft rules which intend to allow divorcing couples to use arbitration to reach an agreement over their financial settlement, and then only go to court to have the arbitration agreement confirmed.

The judge wrote to all family lawyers to give details of the new reforms which will create a single family court as of April, and stated that he is keen for the system to “move forward” when it comes to arbitration and other dispute resolution services. Sir James used as an example the case of S v S, which was the divorce of a couple who had been married for 26 years and commenced divorce proceedings in 2012. The legal process had reached the stage of decree nisi, and at that point both parties agreed to go to arbitration to negotiate a settlement for their assets of around £1.75 million. Within eight weeks of starting arbitration an agreement had been reached, the couple preserved their anonymity and the legal costs are far lower than they might have been in a conventional case.

These new rules should be welcomed by anyone working in family law, as they point out the many advantaged of going to arbitration, and help build the legal profession’s confidence in arbitration as a way of resolving disputes.

Here at Bonallack and Bishop, we strongly support the use of the three types of alternative dispute resolution for family law problems – family mediation, collaborative law and the new option of family arbitration. However, it is worth pointing out that family arbitrators are still relatively few and far between – and so for many people, family mediation or collaborative law may prove a more practical solution at this stage.

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