Arbitration is a scheme where people with a disagreement decide to appoint someone (a specialist lawyer) to make a decision to put an end to their dispute. It is cheaper and quicker than going to court and, unlike mediation, does not require the parties to agree about anything other than the fact that they can’t agree!
Arbitration has been established for some years now as a way of assisting separating couples both in relation to financial matters and to disputes relating to children. Arbitrations can take the form of ‘hearings’ that you attend at the same time as the other party. Each tells the arbitrator what they would like to happen, whilst also having the opportunity to ask the other party questions, all in front of the arbitrator. The arbitrator makes a decision and both parties are bound by it.
The beauty of arbitration as a scheme is that it is totally flexible. This means that you could agree that the arbitration takes place ‘on paper’ – that is without either of you having to attend a ‘hearing’.
What is a paper arbitration in children’s cases?
An arbitration on paper is way in which you can get someone to make a decision about your dispute without having to attend a hearing/meeting at which you give evidence and ask questions of the other parent. In order for the arbitrator to have the required information, you and the other parent would draft a statement setting out what you want for your children and why. You can draft the statement yourself, you can have help from a solicitor or someone else to draft it, or you can pay a solicitor to write it for you. When the arbitrator accepts the case, they should be able to tell you which issues your statement should cover. Each parent sends their statement to the arbitrator, copying in the other parent, and the arbitrator reads them, applies the law and makes a decision. That decision is sent to you within 48 hours and is binding on you and the other parent.
What are the benefits of a paper arbitration?
- You do not have to attend a ‘hearing’ type situation with the other parent
- Once your statements are received by the arbitrator you will get a decision within 48 hours – the courts are unlikely to be able to make a decision for you for months
- The fee is fixed and can be split equally between you or in any other way which you agree.
- The process is much cheaper than going to court.
- Your dispute is decided by a professional who has been accredited by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators
- The arbitrator will decide the dispute by applying the law of England and Wales. The decision is binding on both parents.
- If you feel that you need a Court Order as well, you can apply for one. An application for a Court Order in the same terms as the decision is very likely to be granted.
Is paper arbitration suitable for my dispute?
This type of arbitration is suitable where the issues are very well-defined – that is to say that there are not lots of different issues which all overlap. Examples of cases which are suitable for paper arbitration are which school or nursery a child should attend and what contact they should have with the other parent at a specific time – eg over a holiday or at Christmas. Paper arbitration is particularly helpful where you would rather not be in a room with the other parent and the arbitrator and asking questions of each other, or where you need a decision made about your dispute as quickly as possible. It is also a perfect solution if you find the idea of giving evidence and asking questions of the other parent very difficult; you will be able to draft your statement wherever you feel comfortable and at a pace that suits you.
How do I organise a paper arbitration?
The process is very simple.
- Agree with the other parent that you need someone independent to sort out your dispute.
- Find an arbitrator – We have a team of arbitrators at Barrister For Me, each of them skilled and experienced practitioners in Family Law. There is also a list at www.ifla.org.uk. If you can’t choose an arbitrator, IFLA (the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators) can appoint one for you.
- Agree a fee with the arbitrator’s clerk or office.
- Send your application to IFLA and to the arbitrator’s clerk or office.
- The arbitrator will contact you telling you when to file your statement.
- File your statement and receive a decision by email within 48 hours.
Where can I find out more about the scheme?
There is a full outline of the arbitration scheme at www.ifla.org.uk. You can find out more about Children Arbitration on the Barrister For Me website, or by telephoning the clerks on 01273 81 00 11 who will be happy to assist and to recommend a member of the family team who will be best able to help you.
Julie Stather MCIArb | Arbitration