What is Family Arbitration?

After you and your partner undergo a divorce, each of you will be attempting to find your feet again. Part of this journey involves setting out on the path to become successful co-parents which requires, unsurprisingly, a huge variety of matters for you to discuss and decide upon together. Some of these may come easily to you both, others, not so easily.

If you and your ex are warring over these key decisions, and the debates keep going round and round in circles, then it may be time to call in a bit of external assistance – Family Arbitration sounds like the perfect service to fill that brief and restore some peace.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this type of service, below, you’ll find a more detailed explanation of what you can expect from Family Arbitration. Plus, we’ve also provided some further points of information regarding its benefits and some advice on how you can approach this next step on the road.

What is Family Arbitration and what does it involve?

Family Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution which is unique, in that it provides a middle of the road option – somewhere between you and your ex having a heated independent discussion, and you both taking this battle to the courts.

Family Arbitration involves two co-parents privately resolving a dispute, and appointing a neutral, third party Arbitrator (an experienced family law specialist) to formally decide how this matter can be best resolved. This adjudication will then be written up in the form of an Award, to create a final, legally binding verdict, thus closing the dispute.

This form of dispute resolution provides an alternative option to mediation and negotiation (if you are unable to reach a decision through these measures), that is still one step below taking this issue to the courts. It can be used to reach a final, legally binding decision for the most common disputes that co-parents may have (often, these matters concern future arrangements for their children or their plans for co-parenting). In these ways, Family Arbitration is a fantastic aid – helping you both effectively navigate all of the various complexities that arise from a divorce where children are involved.

What are the benefits of Family Arbitration?

There are all manner of benefits that come with attempting to resolve your dispute through Family Arbitration, (rather than jumping past this option and immediately taking the conflict straight through to the courts).

It can be used to reach agreements for matters concerning financial disputes (such as child maintenance claims or securing financial provisions for children); children’s living arrangements; arrangements for how these children will be able to contact their parents; or matters like where children will now be attending school.

The benefits of Family Arbitration include, but are not limited to:

  • It is significantly cheaper than taking the dispute to the courts
  • Unlike court, Family Arbitration is a confidential service (so your personal matters won’t be laid bare to the public)
  • Reaching a decision through Arbitration is usually a much faster process than going to court
  • You have far greater control over how the Arbitration service will run – you can choose which issues will be decided upon, as well as which arbitrator is the individual best suited to determining a verdict for your personal situation (in accordance with your budget, too)
  • The option of arbitration isn’t limited to married couples or civil partners – it can also be used by unmarried couples
  • In some Arbitration cases, it is even possible for the whole matter to be resolved on paper, so that you don’t necessarily need a face-to-face hearing.

Once the Arbitrator has heard both of your perspectives on the matter, this family law professional will make their decision. This will be fair, unbiased and present the right outcome to best suit the both of you.

It’s important to note that this is not, by any means, intended to criticise the work of the courts – they provide an inconceivable amount of aid to families up and down the country. However, there are some significant drawbacks to attending court (including namely the cost, time taken and the inflexibility of the final verdict), which would make alternative options like Family Arbitration preferable, should they be a suitable possibility.

You can also see our previous article about Family Mediation Services, which provides another great alternative dispute resolution option. However, if you’re looking for a slightly more formal solution than this to solve the disagreement between you and your partner, then we would suggest that Family Arbitration is your best bet for successfully resolving key co-parenting issues.

Where can I find out more?

If you feel like Family Arbitration seems like the dispute resolution service that is best suited to solve your particular conflict(s), then speak to your solicitor. They will be able to connect you to an experienced Arbitrator who will be the best fit for your individual dispute and its unique circumstances (including factors like your location and budget, as well as the nature of your issue).

You can also find an Arbitrator to take on your dispute through professional websites like Resolution or the IFLA’s (the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators) website.

Just because you can’t come to rosy resolutions together right off the back of your separation, this is no reason to feel ashamed. Laying the foundations for a new co-parenting relationship is bound to lead to a few disputes – it’s hardly surprising that you and your ex don’t agree on everything, after all.

However, before taking this dispute to court, it is worth reading up on other alternative options that can help you to resolve the matter. By attempting an approach other than the courts, it is likely that your dispute will be resolved in a way that is altogether far faster, cheaper and easier. It certainly won’t be an option that works for all couples (or, indeed, all disputes) but it is a great point from which to broach the matter.

Conflict resolution services are a brilliant way to better the co-parenting practices of countless couples. By having external parties assist in these debates and choose the right outcome to suit both parties and your child, this provides a great way to quickly bring the matter to a close.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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