Family Arbitration – A solution for Family disputes
In the current climate, many financial applications already be before the court are necessarily being adjourned. If your clients are facing this situation, Family Arbitration could be the solution to resolve financial issues caused by relationship breakdown.
Robert Adams of Wace Morgan Solicitors is an accredited arbitrator in financial cases. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration and a Solicitor of almost forty years experience, specialising in matrimonial proceedings for the majority of his career and specialising in financial remedy proceedings for the last twenty-five years.
We spoke to Robert, who went into more detail about the potential benefits of Family Arbitration
Arbitration is an ideal opportunity for any parties who wish to have their financial matters resolved quickly, and to have that done outside of the scope of court proceedings. In the present circumstances and with the uncertainty about how long delays and adjournments at court may extend, arbitration is the perfect solution
It is particularly useful in cases where the parties are “stuck” on one or two points. Both parties still have to agree to arbitrate but once they do, they cannot change their mind (rather like court proceedings).
The arbitrator is your personal FastTrack Judge – their decision can only be challenged if they get the law wrong, the same as for a Judge. Indeed, the grounds for appeal are almost identical and the process similar.
The arbitrator will only make a decision on the issues they are asked to decide upon. For example, if the clients have agreed on three issues and a decision is required on only two, you tell the arbitrator that and they will not interfere with that part of the agreement.
Why isn’t everyone using Arbitration?
Many legal professionals are unfamiliar with the arbitration process, perhaps as it is relatively new or there is a perception that it is just for “big money” cases.
I think arbitration is perfect for the situation many people find themselves in:
- They have some money – but not enough to buy two houses and live as they did.
- They have agreed many of the issues between them – but there are some issues that they just cannot agree on.
- They want a fast, cost effective solution – but they can’t get there without someone else stepping in and deciding it with finality.
- They both want to move on.
What is the process like?
Once arbitration has been decided upon, there are a number of benefits to the process compared with the court system:
- It is quick – An arbitration can take as little time as you want. There are reports of concluded arbitration awards being made in less than a month, but there is no doubt that in the vast majority of cases, the arbitration process is substantially quicker than the court system, which even before the crisis could take up to 12-18 months.
- You could have a decision made on paper – Once the parties agree what money, assets and any other property they have, who has what income and mortgage capacity, they ask the arbitrator to make a decision based on that information. There is then a FastTrack procedure to turn the arbitration award made by the arbitrator in to a Court Order.
- One arbitrator – The parties have the same arbitrator throughout and not a different Judge each time, which can happen in court proceedings. Usually they have hearings in person although we are currently having meetings via Skype, Zoom or whatever remote process is available and satisfactory to all concerned.
- Flexibility – The hearings can take place in the evenings and at the weekend, (dependent upon the flexibility of the arbitrator!). And the arbitrator will only decide upon the issues you bring to them. For example, if you have been mediating and have reached an agreement on most but not all issues arbitration allows you to focus on just the unresolved issues, rather than starting all over again with court proceedings.
- Cost – Your clients, of course, want to know how much all this is going to cost. Again, that is a flexible issue and in normal circumstances, the costs of the arbitrator are shared between the parties. The actual cost is decided on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances, but are typically significantly lower than the equivalent costs of going to court.
If you are interested in arbitration in your matter and reaching a speedy, confidential conclusion, please do contact Robert Adams on 01743 280100. You can also find more information on our Family Arbitration Department page here
For more information on Family Arbitration, see the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA)