Lawyer Monthly - October 2022

A Brief History of the Scheme Arbitration in financial remedy proceedings on divorce has now been available for 10 years. The scheme was initially, as the late Sir Peter Singer wrote, for parties who “wish their financial dispute to be dealt with as swiftly, cheaply, privately and with as little acrimony as is possible” ([2012] Fam Law 1496). The remit was extended in 2016 to cover matters relating to the children of a relationship and all of the same benefits applied, but the rapid resolution of the matter was of course all the more beneficial to the welfare of the children. How the Scheme Works The scheme is very simple in its conception – the parties agree to use an arbitrator to determine the issues in their case; they either agree the identity of that arbitrator or leave it to random allocation, and the case is then dealt with, applying the law of England and Wales, and a binding decision is given. The beauty of the scheme is in its detail: the parties can agree to arbitrate at any time (before or during court proceedings), they can agree to limit the issues they want to be determined (whereas the court has jurisdiction to delve into any issues), and they agree a time and place for the arbitration to be carried out. Arbitration can determine entire cases or discrete issues, court proceedings can be adjourned generally for an arbitration to take place and, once the arbitration is complete, the parties can apply to the court for an order in the same terms as the arbitrator’s decision. As stated in a judgement by Ms Clare Ambrose sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, “It would be exceptional for a Court to refuse to approve a Consent Order…” (para 53, BC v BG [2019] EWFC 7). Arbitration can be used by separating couples whether they were married, cohabiting or indeed in another form of relationship, as well as by wider family members such as grandparents. It is swift, flexible, convenient and cost-effective. What is not to like? Performance and Development of the Scheme The performance of the scheme as whole can be evaluated in many different ways. Firstly, it is now unusual to find a practitioner who is unaware of at least the existence of scheme, and seminars have been given up and down the The Family Arbitration Scheme The Future of Family Justice Family arbitration has been nicknamed ‘the private court’ and that is essentially what it is – a method of resolving disputes in family matters by paying an experienced and independent qualified specialist professional to determine your dispute. In this article, family law and dispute resolution expert Julie Stather will examine the scheme, its success and why she believes it is the way of the future. Expert Insight 70 LAWYERMONTHLYOCTOBER 2022

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