The launch of the children arbitration scheme on 18 July 2016 is probably the most exciting development within family law in recent times and has been endorsed by the President of the Family Division.
The financial scheme has been around since 2012 and in 4 years there have been just over 100 arbitrations. It is expected that the children scheme will be a far more popular avenue for participants.
The scheme enables parents to opt for arbitration rather than issue proceedings in court if they are in disagreement over arrangements for their children. This is ideally suited to those who cannot agree on where or with whom their children should live, contact arrangements or which school their children should attend.
The benefits are:
the process is far speedier than court proceedings;
the option to choose whether the proceedings should be dealt with on paper only or by telephone or video-link;
the ability to choose your own arbitrator;
the arbitrator only makes a determination on the issues chosen by the participants;
it is a more streamlined process than court proceedings and participants won’t have to wait for a judge at court or deal with different judges (with different views) at multiple hearings;
a written determination is received and can be made into a court order;
it is likely to be cheaper than court proceedings;
the media are not permitted to attend;
choice of independent social worker (if one is required.)
The current pool of children’s arbitrators (currently 40) are all highly experienced children practitioners including eminent QC’s, retired High Court and Court of Appeal judges. Therefore, participants will have the benefit of an arbitrator who specialises almost entirely in children’s cases.
At Prism we can offer two children’s arbitrators, Jeremy Ford and Penny Logan. Their sole court practice is devoted to representing only children in the High Court through their children’s guardian. Their experience neatly dovetails with the role of a children’s arbitrator and makes them perfectly placed to make child focussed determinations.
Retired High Court Judge, Sir Hugh Bennett, has said of arbitration that, “in my estimation the advantages so outweigh what are said, very inaccurately, to be disadvantages, that I confidently predict that within the near future family arbitration will complement the court system just as private medicine complements the National Health Service.” We wholeheartedly endorse this view and look forward to offering children’s arbitration as the way forward to parents who cannot reach agreement and seek a more effective mode of resolving their dispute.