Arbitration In Family Matters?

Yes, arbitration is now available within family relationships.  Generally speaking the word arbitration would make you think of trade unions, disputes between companies/employees and not something you would associate with the breakdown of family relationships.

Arbitration is now used for resolving financial disputes between divorcing couples, cohabitees and civil partners.  Similar to other arbitration processes, the parties within a family arbitration agree to appoint a suitable qualified arbitrator and will also agree to be bound by his or her decision.  Arbitrators can be chosen according to any specialist knowledge they may have in a particular area, such as tax or pensions or owner managed businesses.

Due to the cutbacks in legal aid provision for family cases, the Courts are becoming busier and dealing with more people acting without any legal aid representation, and the process can be much slower.  Administration within the Court process can mean that documents do not always reach your file on time, and if they do, the Judges are so busy that they often have not had the opportunity to read them before your hearing.

The process of arbitration is more flexible.  Within the Court procedure, all parties must use a “one size fits all” Court form.  In arbitration, the financial disclosure can be in a format best suited to you.  There is no Court timetable or opening times to adhere to – the parties can set their own timetable.  Any hearings that are required can take place at times to suit the parties, such as evenings and weekends.  The arbitration process is far quicker than Court proceedings which can take months from start to finish, with hearings listed months apart.  Often lengthy Court proceedings add to the considerable stress the parties are going through in any event.

A chosen arbitrator can read through all the papers and documents, without you and your legal advisers having to attend.  This is a very useful exercise, particularly if you need a decision on just one area of your case.  In many cases, couples are unable to reach an agreement as to how the furniture and belongings will be divided between them.  In appointing an arbitrator to make a decision on this, might avoid continuous arguments over the issue which could lead to the rest of the agreement breaking down.

The arbitration process is very confidential.  Most people would balk at the thought of their personal and financial details being released to the press, but this is a risk posed in the Court process.  It is not always the case that you need to be a public figure to be subjected to invasion of your privacy by the press.

Cost is always a concern for any client.  In adopting the arbitration process, you will still have to pay fees to your lawyer to represent you within the process, and you will also need to pay for the arbitrator’s fee and the cost of a venue (if necessary).

The arbitration process saves you a considerable amount of time, and you will have control over the agenda and the process.  Preventing any press intrusion by avoiding Court procedures is invaluable in terms of stress and your personal/financial information becoming public knowledge.

Our team of Family Lawyers at Seatons Solicitors has a wealth of knowledge and considerable experience in assisting clients with a wide range of family issues.  Contact Sarah Chan on 01536 276300 or email sarah@seatons.co.uk or Maureen Brown on 01536 311690 or email maureen@seatons.co.uk