Being involved in a family law dispute is stressful enough, let alone thinking about dealing with court proceedings. We will help you resolve your family law arrangements cost-effectively and with as little animosity as possible.
We will discuss with you the option of mediation and make a referral if that is something you wish to try. Mediation can and does work for many families and can help to preserve relationships, particularly when co-parenting is involved. You can contact us in between mediation sessions if you need some guidance. We will also consider roundtable meetings with the other party and their lawyer.
Our principal, Karen Dovaston is a financial Family Arbitrator and can also assist in this area.
What is family arbitration?
Family arbitration is a way for financial disputes or disputes about arrangements for your children to be decided outside the court system. It is generally quicker and cheaper than having a dispute decided by a court. The arbitrator makes a decision and records it in an award or a determination. If your dispute is about a financial matter in divorce/dissolution of a relationship, the award can then be turned into a court order and submitted to the court for approval, using a fast-track process.
Is family arbitration binding? Can one party change their mind if they don’t like the award?
Family arbitration is binding. Parties cannot change their minds if they don’t like the decision.
Arbitration starts with an agreement between the parties to arbitrate and to be bound by the arbitrator’s award. Arbitration awards are recognised by the court and will not be interfered with, except in very limited circumstances. One example might be that the law was not properly applied, but those cases are rare.
Why not just go to court?
You could apply to the court and ask a judge to make a decision about your family law arrangements but there are many advantages with family arbitration. Arbitration gives you more control over the process and it is faster and cheaper. With arbitration:
- You can choose your own arbitrator. The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) administers the scheme and holds a register of qualified, accredited arbitrators. You might want an arbitrator with a particular skill or interest, or in a particular geographic area.
You will see the same arbitrator throughout the arbitration. Conversely, if you go to court, you have no choice over the judge who hears your case, and it is common for you to have a different judge on each hearing.
- You can have a say about the procedure to be used. One of the advantages of arbitration is its flexibility. You, your partner, and your legal teams (if you have them) can decide how you want the areas of dispute to be decided. You might decide you want it all done on paper, without hearings. You would usually discuss this with the arbitrator. If you go to court, there is a ‘one size fits all’ process with little flexibility.
- You can tell the arbitrator what you need them to decide – and what you have agreed. Unlike court proceedings, you can limit the areas that you want the arbitrator to decide. You can tell the arbitrator what has been agreed and the arbitrator will accept that. For example, you could ask for a decision on paper for just one area if all other areas are agreed. There are many possibilities.
- It is all confidential – there will never be a court report about your case with your personal details disclosed. Arbitration is totally confidential.
How is arbitration different from mediation?
Mediation provides a space and supports parties to work together to reach their own solution. The mediator will not make a decision for you, nor give you legal advice, but they will encourage you to make your own decisions. If you cannot reach an agreement, then you would need an arbitrator or a court to decide for you.
Can I keep my solicitor?
Yes. Well placed legal advice from a solicitor specialising in family law matters can be very helpful but you do not have to have a solicitor to engage an arbitrator. Most people do, however.
How can we help?
Karen Dovaston is a Family Arbitrator and can assist in this area. She can:
- Undertake neutral evaluations of your financial situation – which can be carried out in a mediation session.
- Undertake private financial dispute resolution hearings if your spouse and your solicitors are ‘stuck’ on reaching an agreement – whether that is via solicitors or if you are in mediation.
- Act as an arbitrator to decide the outcome of issues between you and your spouse or partner.
- Advise you on the option and mechanics for using arbitration for your financial arrangements or arrangements for your children.
Karen is also involved in The Certainty Project, an innovative combination of mediation and arbitration to help you resolve your arrangements quickly and cost effectively, while retaining as much control as you wish in the process.
We believe that going to court should be the last resort and will guide you through the most likely outcomes so that you can do your best to reach an agreement whether through mediation or arbitration.