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Can arbitration speed up the divorce process?

20 Dec 2022

With the court backlog larger than ever following the pandemic, couples are choosing to go private to avoid a lengthy wait for a divorce.

Even before the disruption of 2020, family courts had a waiting list of cases and the effect of lockdowns has increased this by an estimated 20%, with around 42,000 cases waiting to be heard in January 2021.

Courts have always encouraged couples to try and deal with divorce between themselves wherever possible, with mediation strongly recommended to try and settle disputes relating to issues such as finances, property and children.

Hiring an arbitrator

For couples who are not able to resolve matters by way of mediation or negotiation, a court hearing was traditionally the last resort. But with a lengthy wait for dates, leaving couples in limbo, arbitrators are becoming a popular choice as it is more flexible than the court process and can be tailored to your needs.

An arbitrator deals with issues in a similar way to a judge in the family court. The arbitrator will have at least ten years’ experience in family law and is generally a solicitor, barrister or retired judge. Their decision is binding and will be sealed by the court. Where necessary, there is a right of appeal.

Pros of arbitration

Arbitration is a far quicker option than court. By way of example, it is possible to obtain a decision at arbitration in a contested financial matter in around four months, where it could take two years in court. Court hearings can also be cancelled at the last moment, meaning that barristers who have prepared for the case may need to spend hours in the future refreshing their memories by going over the papers for a second time.  In some instances, arbitration can be arranged in a matter of days and couples can set their own timetable.

Arbitration is a confidential process, dealt with out of the public eye, so that issues can remain private. It is generally more cost-effective than litigation and gives couples the chance to put their divorce behind them and move on. If you choose arbitration, your solicitor will still prepare the case in the same way and support you throughout.

The arbitrator will hear evidence just as a court would and will make an award at the end. They also have the authority to order one party to pay the other’s legal costs, where this is deemed appropriate.

How we can help

If you would like further information on divorce or child arrangements, then please contact our expert family law team either by calling us on 01892 506191 or get in touch by completing our contact form.