What is family arbitration?
Like family mediation and collaborative law, family arbitration is all about resolving family law disputes outside of court. However family arbitration is subtly different from either of these other more established family law dispute resolution approaches.
The parties in dispute enter into an agreement onto which a specially qualified and accredited family arbitrator [often an experienced divorce solicitor or barrister] is appointed to adjudicate and produce a clear and binding result to resolve the conflict.
It is usually applied during a divorce or a separation and in England and Wales, family law arbitration is a scheme run by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, which allows couples to resolve financial issues which arise from a divorce, whether this occurs in the UK or abroad.
How does family arbitration work?
The new Family Law Arbitration scheme, only launched in February 2012, gives couples the option of resolving their disputes outside of the court. Once an Arbitrator has been chosen by the couple to deal with their case, the Arbitrator then has to remain involved with the case until a final decision is reached. Any decision made in the arbitration process is legally binding and can be enforced in court proceedings by a District Judge.
What issues can family arbitration cover?
Family arbitration deals with any issue or number of issues which may need to be resolved during divorce proceedings and these include any disputes regarding finances and property, the marriage and why it broke down, judicial separation or reasons for annulling the marriage, breakdown of any civil partnership along with any financial provisions, co-habitation, the ending of co-habitation along with who will share parental responsibility can all be covered by family arbitration. It also allows for provisions to be made for any dependants from the deceased’s estate.
One particular feature of family arbitration is, unlike going to court, it is possible to deal with a discrete issue – so, for example, in looking at financial issues, the court will consider all family assets, family arbitration could, for example, limited scope, just to say maintenance, or pensions or say the former matrimonial home.
When can I use family arbitration?
Arbitration can be used to resolve any financial or property issues which you can’t reach an agreement on after your relationship has broken down. The IFLA scheme (‘Institute for Family Law Arbitrators’) covers all financial and property disputes in family relationships. It resolves the financial consequences of divorce, however no legal aid is available for these proceedings.
Family arbitration can be used for all marriages under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; The Inheritance of the Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975, (IPFDA), Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act, (MPFA) 1984, Scheme 1 of the Children’s Act, Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, Civil Partnership Act and the Married Women’s Property Act 1882
We think family arbitration opens up some very exciting possibilities – as a result, we are arranging for one of our team to become qualified as a family arbitrator in early 2013 – watch this space!
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Comments or questions are welcome.