I am an Arbitrator. Arbitration is a relatively new concept in family matters although it has been around for many years to deal with commercial disputes. Arbitration is a private, formal and binding process where disputes are resolved by a final award made by an Arbitrator. Until Arbitration was introduced, the only way to resolve issues that could not be agreed upon was via the Court. Of course it is always the aim to try and reach agreement when relationships break down but it is not always possible. Arbitration can also be used with the mediation process so that discussions and disclosure of assets could take place during mediation and if you cannot reach agreement, then the matter could be referred to Arbitration.

Resolving disputes using Artibtration

Arbitration can be used to resolve all of the issues between you or just some issues

For example you may want a decision about interim financial support, how the contents of a family home should be divided, or how much maintenance should be paid and for how long. It cannot however be used for issues about where children should live or how often contact should take place.

Arbitration can deal with:-

Arbitration works in the same way as a court except that the person making the decision is someone you choose such as myself. The decision is binding although it is necessary to have a court order made once the decision is made. This should be a straight forward and inexpensive process.

You and your partner will either choose an Arbitrator or can ask IFLA (the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators) to choose one for you. The fees will be met jointly between you. The Arbitrator will deal with you both equally ie any communication with the Arbitrator will be copied to the other party.

The benefits of arbitration are:-

Susan Clark Solicitor is a member of the Chartered Insitute of Arbitrators

To start Arbitration you and your partner must agree that this is the way you wish to resolve matters. A form called an ARB1 is completed either with the name of the Arbitrator you wish to instruct or asking the IFLA to choose for you. Once the Arbitrator has been instructed you have to continue in the Arbitration process unless you and your partner agree that you do not wish to.

The Arbitrator has the same powers of the Court ie to order valuations of properties, pension reports and other experts’ reports if these are needed. This is done at a first hearing usually.

The final hearing usually involves the parties (and their solicitors if they have one) attending. If the issues are limited, it can be dealt with in writing. After the hearing the Arbitrator gives an award in writing usually within 14 days. There is only very limited ability to appeal (where there is a legal error or some other irregularity).

Once the award is made then the court is asked to incorporate the terms of the award into a consent order. If one party refuses to co-operate then the other party can apply to the Court for the order to be made.

Even if you are already in court proceedings, you can ask for these to be stayed to enable you to try and resolve matters through Arbitration.

What do you do next?

You must both decide they would like to use this scheme. Then one of you should e-mail me (or send a letter) with a brief summary of the case copying that e-mail to the other party. I cannot deal with one party by telephone because I have to deal with both equally and ensure that the procedure is transparent. If I can take on the case, I will then send you the ARB1 to complete.

I will then confirm that I am formally instructed to deal with the Arbitration. I should then be sent instructions, which should contain all the documentation that each side wishes me to consider and details of any disclosure that has taken place to date of the financial positions of each of you. It can then be decided what needs to be done further to get the case ready for a final hearing.


Fixed costs - £2,500 + vat + costs of room hire if necessary. These are usually paid jointly by the parties and are payable on my appointment. If agreement is reached at least days before a final hearing 50% of this fee will be refunded. At my discretion more could be refunded if for example agreement is reached at an early stage.

If the issues are complicated and the matter may take more than a day to decide, the costs will increase and an estimate will be supplied to you on receipt of instructions.

More Information About Arbitration