What is arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of alternate dispute resolution which offers an alternative to Court proceedings. In family law cases, this process has been available for financial disputes since 2012, and for children issues since 2016. Essentially, you and your spouse/partner enter into an agreement under which you appoint a professionally qualified person, an arbitrator, to adjudicate your dispute and to make an ‘award’. The decision of an arbitrator (the award) is binding in the same way as an order of the court, subject to ratification by a judge. It is based on the same legal principles. Although it is possible to appeal a decision made by an arbitrator, the grounds are limited and not dissimilar to that of an appeal of a judge’s decision made in Court. Thus, you can expect certainty of outcome.
Why choose arbitration?
There are many benefits to arbitration:
- You have the ability to select, with your spouse/partner, your arbitrator; a decision that will often be based on your solicitors’ recommendations as to who would be most suitable to determine the case. This can be the source of great relief because you are not faced with attending Court having no idea who the judge might be on the day of your hearing; instead, you will know that the arbitrator is a trusted professional, carefully selected, and you will have the opportunity to meet him/her ahead of your hearing. This means that there is an element of familiarity which can ease the situation.
- An arbitrator will have enormously more time to spend considering your case, reading the papers carefully and getting to grips with the issues. Arbitrators are not subject to the same time and administrative pressures of the Court system so you can go into the hearing room with confidence that the arbitrator has a real understanding of your case.
- Arbitration also offers consistency. The same arbitrator will deal with your case from start to finish. At Court, you are unlikely to have your case heard by the same judge at each stage and there can be a lack of consistency.
- Autonomy and flexibility are also at the centre of family arbitration, starting with a decision made in agreement about what you would like the arbitrator to adjudicate about i.e. either all matters are to be resolved or simply a few discrete issues. The arbitrator can make decisions about the general management of the case in accordance with what works best for you and your partner/spouse and both parties’ solicitors logistically. Unfortunately, the Court cannot afford such flexibility and this means that deadlines, hearing dates and timing of hearings will be imposed on you unless there are good reasons for a different approach.
- Last but by no means least, arbitration is private. You can be confident that the details of your dispute will not be made public. This might be attractive to high profile individuals who do not want their private lives to be brought to the attention of the public.
What is your solicitor’s role throughout the arbitration process?
Our role throughout the process of arbitration closely resembles the role we play if you were attempting to settle your dispute through the Court system. We will explain the process of arbitration, consider whether the case is suitable for arbitration, assist with the selection of an arbitrator, determine the issues in dispute, and represent you throughout. We will advise on tactics and strategy, and how to secure the most favourable outcome.
Why Dawson Cornwell?
At Dawson Cornwell, we are experts in resolving disagreements through arbitration. You will need specialist advice if you are considering arbitration. Please contact one of our key team members if you wish to explore this option.