President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has issued guidance to encourage separating or divorcing couples to use arbitration instead of going to court. Elise Alma, Partner at Coodes Solicitors, welcomes the news.
“For couples who have decided to separate or get divorced, family arbitration is an alternative to going to court. It offers speed, flexibility and confidentiality and is generally far less stressful. Court costs and delays are ever increasing, whereas with arbitration the parties are very much able to set their own agendas, timetables and to some extent control the costs involved. Both partners appoint an arbitrator, who will make a final and binding decision on finances and property that they haven’t been able to agree on.
“The new guidance states that where possible the family court must enable non-court resolution. If court proceedings are already underway, these should be put on hold to enable arbitration or other alternative methods to resolve the dispute. Court should be a last resort.
“The guidance also says that unopposed applications for a court order reflecting an arbitration award should be dealt with on paper by a district judge. However, the court ‘will always retain the ability to raise questions in correspondence or to call for a hearing’. Only in ‘the rarest of cases’ will it be appropriate for the judge not to approve the order.
“This is a key development in family arbitration. Hopefully the guidance will persuade family lawyers and their clients that arbitration is a very real option.”
For more information on this or any family law enquiries contact our Family team.