Resolving disputes about children can be incredibly difficult and emotional. When parents are not able to
reach an agreement between themselves or with the help of solicitors or mediators, their only option until
recently was to go to court.
Joanne Davies, Family Solicitor, explains how the new children arbitration system works and why it could be a better choice for you and your family.
With increasing numbers of court applications but fewer people being legally represented, many parents’ experience of the court system is one of frustration and delay. It will hopefully come as good news then that parents can now use arbitration to resolve children matters.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is where parties appoint a third party to decide on an issue or issues which they can’t agree on.
Parties can represent themselves or instruct a solicitor/barrister; they then liaise with the arbitrator to decide the issues that need resolving and theevidence required. Following this, a date is fixed for the arbitration when evidence and arguments are heard as they would be in court and the arbitrator makes a decision. That decision is legally binding.
What are the advantages of arbitration?
• Parents can choose the arbitrator (a legal professional with significant experience of children matters) who will handle the case throughout.
• The parents and the arbitrator set a date and time for the arbitration which could be evenings or weekends.
• The parents choose the venue (thereby avoiding what can be perceived as an intimidating court room).
• There should be no adjournments (delays) as you will not be competing with other cases for the arbitrator’s time.
• The arbitration process is much quicker, and generally therefore cheaper,than court - one of the first cases to go to arbitration took just 10 days between referral and final decision.
• It is completely private and confidential.
What are the disadvantages?
• The decision needs to be made into a court order although this is essentially an administrative matter.
• Despite being in all likelihood cheaper than going to court, you will still have to cover the costs of the arbitrator, venue, legal representatives and experts.
• Arbitration cannot be used for cases with an international element e.g. applications to remove a child from the UK.
Despite these disadvantages, we would argue that the benefits of arbitration outweigh the negatives. It is a very important addition to the dispute resolution toolkit for children matters and provides a much needed alternative to court.
The family team at Burroughs Day are committed to resolving your family issues as quickly and effectively as possible and will discuss the different options available to you. If you would like more information on arbitration orany other dispute resolution method please contact a member of contact the team on 01275 843213 or firstname.lastname@example.org