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Arbitration now available to divorcing couples

Couples looking to divorce have traditionally used one of two routes; either mediation or the courts. Mediation as a dispute-resolution process has become popular within the area of family law due to its non-litigious nature, and for its ability to save disagreeing parties time and costs.

Thanks to a new initiative by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, which champions arbitration as a dispute-resolution method for separating couples, there is now a third alternative for couples looking to divide their assets upon divorce.

Arbitration is a dispute-resolution process that is traditionally used in commercial and civil law disputes. In such instances, the parties in question will have agreed in advance to resort to arbitration if a dispute arises.

Arbitration has not previously been used to settle financial disputes arising from divorce. It is expected that the new scheme will be popular, and 40 lawyers have already been trained to provide arbitration in matters of partnership dissolution.

Due to the expected high demand for arbitration, it is likely that many more professionals will undergo training.

Who will use arbitration?

It is thought that the new scheme will primarily be used by wealthy couples who wish to settle their disputes in private. Many professionals also predict that the scheme will be appealing to cohabiting and civil partner couples who are looking to separate.

Marilyn Stowe, Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law, said that the scheme would be of interest to, “Those who are in big money cases who can circumvent the waiting period in the courts and also are prepared to pay the fees of the arbitrator to have the benefit of privacy”.

James Pirrie, of Family Law in Partnership, said that the current pressure on the courts is likely to have the consequence of couples looking to use other methods to solve their disputes.

”Court queues are growing – meaning longer delays and more costs for those going to court. That increases the pressures on judges, who have bigger caseloads to manage and less time for each case and there are inevitable stories of bad outcomes. That means that appeals are likely, leading to an even longer process and a greater likelihood of loss of privacy as the media become involved.”

Alternative dispute resolution methods have grown in popularity as it gives disputing parties the opportunity to come to an agreement and avoid formal, lengthy and costly court process. The use of these methods is likely to increase further as the full benefit of their application is realised.

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