Is Child Arbitration a viable option for parental disputes?
Sponsored Blog from Consilia Legal
In December 2022, the Law Society of England and Wales reported that the percentage of cases where parties had no legal representation in the Family Court was 39%. Litigants-in-Person (LiP) have become an increasingly common occurrence in family proceedings which are notoriously costly, drawn-out, and unpredictable. Within the current financial climate, the cost of litigation is simply pricing-out access to legal advice.
When coupled with the news that HMCTS is predicting up to three years of continuing Court backlogs before a return to pre-pandemic levels, it is clear that Alternative Dispute Resolution is now more appropriate than ever.
Below, we examine the merits of Arbitration as a viable solution for disputes regarding children.
What is Child Arbitration?
Like Court, Arbitration can come into play where parental disputes regarding children have reached a stalemate and an agreement cannot be reached. Instead of a Judge, an appointed Arbitrator will hear from all parties concerned and rule accordingly. A formal written decision by the Arbitrator is then binding on both sides.
Child Arbitration can be used for a wide spectrum of cases involving children including how much time a child spends with each parent, where a child lives, where they go to school and other specific issues such as religion.
How is Arbitration Different to Court?
Freedom of Choice
In Arbitration, the parties are not at the liberty of the Court. Both sides can choose their own Arbitrator (E.g a guaranteed family law expert) and set their own date, time and venue to have their case heard. This removes some of the unpredictability that is attached to court proceedings and allows parties to control the speed of events. Both sides will also have the right to say exactly which specific issue the arbitrator is ruling on. For example, where the child(ren) should live or how much time should be spent with a parent.
Since January 2023, journalists have been allowed into Family Courts in Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff to scrutinise and report on court proceedings. This is part of calls for greater transparency in the justice system and within courtrooms. Journalists now have the freedom to report on almost anything – so long as a child’s identity is not compromised. In Arbitration, no such power exists for journalists and all matters are kept confidential – only the parties involved will witness proceedings and have access to all the disclosure.
Because Arbitration is generally much more efficient than Court, with the parties working to their own schedules rather than the HMCTS backlog, the costs of arbitration are often lower. Participants must bear in mind that they will be responsible for the fee that the appointed arbitrator charges, however on balance, this is likely to be less than counsel fees, solicitor fees and court fees stretched out over months and months.
As identified above, one benefit of arbitration over Court proceedings is that parties can decide on what specific issues they would like the arbitrator to rule on and still retain control over other decision making. This means the parties may engage in other forms of dispute resolution alongside arbitration such as mediation. This will help parties continue to co-parent and make joint decisions rather than handing over total power to the Court.
Our team of specialist family solicitors can advise parents in relation to disputes concerning children. If you could like more information on child arbritration or advice generally please contact our team on 0113 322 9222 or email@example.com