Arbitration was introduced in March 2012 and is slowly gaining momentum. It is an alternative to going to court to resolve financial matters in divorce. It is most suitable for couples who do not think they could reach agreement but still wish to avoid the costs and delays associated with going to court.
Mena Ruparel is a family law solicitor, practising in Surrey. She qualified as an Arbitrator in 2012, and presents an Introduction to Arbitration to help practitioners understand how beneficial Arbitration can be in the family context. Mena explains below how arbitration can be used to resolve financial issues in divorce:
What is it?
“Arbitration is a way to resolve financial disputes arising from the breakdown of a relationship, whether it is a marriage, civil partnership or cohabiting relationship. It can also be used to resolve issues regarding Inheritance disputes. However, it can’t be used to deal with any non-financial children issues on the breakdown of a relationship.
In Arbitration proceedings, a decision is imposed upon the parties unless they are able to reach an agreement before a decision is imposed.
Each Arbitrator sets their own charging rate and you can contact the Arbitrator direct to request information about their terms and conditions and charging rates. Many Arbitrators will be willing to set a fixed fee; the Arbitrator’s fees are usually paid equally by the parties unless you agree otherwise.”
How does it work?
“There are a few websites that take you through the process in a lot more detail, the main one is www.ifla.org.uk. The application form and rules can be downloaded from that website.
Both you and your ex-partner would need to agree that you both want to go forward with Arbitration; it is usually a good idea to speak to a legal professional about taking this step first. Once you have agreed to use this process, one party can’t withdraw unilaterally.”
What are the benefits to the client?
“One of the main advantages is that you decide what qualities you use to choose your Arbitrator. There is a list of qualified Arbitrators and some information about each of them on the website mentioned above.
The Arbitrator is a dedicated decision maker, once that person accepts your case they will always be the person who makes the decisions. This is quite different to the court process; you could meet a different Judge on every occasion you attend Court.
The Arbitrator should deal with the case in the way that you both agree, unless the Arbitrator suggests a better way forward, you will choose how to proceed.
You indicate the speed at which you want to proceed; this means that you meet for hearings when it is convenient to you. Many Arbitrators would be willing to do this in the evenings and at weekends, in person or by telephone conference or SKYPE.
You can progress matters forward in a manner that is more user friendly than the court system. It is more of a bespoke service than using the court system.”
Mena is a family solicitor dealing with all aspects of financial remedy claims. In 2003 she started work as a lecturer, regularly presenting training courses in England and Wales to Solicitors, Barristers, Judges and other legal professionals. To contact Mena Ruparel, please see her website www.menaruparel.com
For information on the other options available to you for reaching a financial settlement in divorce, click on the links below for my other blogs in this series:
Rhiannon Ford Divorce Consultancy provides support and guidance for people going through divorce and/or separation, working with individuals before, during and after the legal process. I often work with family law professionals solicitors and mediators to provide help to clients struggling with the legal process.
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