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A potential barrier to family law arbitration finally removed

Alistair Myles, partner, Levison Meltzer Pigott, 30/10/2020

Since lockdown in March, the family courts have been trying to keep up as best they can, using telephone and videoconferencing, to deal with those hearings which can be dealt with remotely. However, large numbers of cases have simply been adjourned, with the result that the backlog of cases that existed in March is now much longer.

Family law arbitration is an attractive proposition to many. Lengthy court delays are avoided, the identity of the arbitrator is chosen by the parties and the process is entirely confidential. Since its launch in 2014 family law arbitration has perhaps been considered the reserve of the wealthy, given the additional cost of the arbitrator.

That is now likely to change, due to there being a wide range of family law arbitrators to suit every case, whether in relation to finances or children, and due to the ever-increasing delays faced by litigants in the court system.

The drawback to many has been the ability (in fact, the difficulty) up until now of a party to an arbitration to challenge any arbitration award.

Arbitration started in the commercial sphere, where parties to a dispute would sign up to arbitration to achieve a final result even if they were, “buying the right to the wrong result”. Finality, come what may, being the main goal in many such commercial cases.

Family law is different: whilst divorcing couples are free to come to an agreement between themselves, legislation requires that any such agreement is approved by a family law judge as ...


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