Are we going to see an increase in Alternative Dispute Resolution and Arbitration in Child Law Cases?
The court system is naturally struggling to cope with the sudden change in approach required for hearings. It has always been the case that the majority of hearings have gone ahead requiring physical presence of the parties and their legal representatives, and now for the first time, the opposite is true. Most court hearings are now being conducted remotely, whether by Skype, telephone or other video conferencing facility.
Some separated parents may feel stuck in limbo at the moment as they are unable to agree arrangements for children, particularly whilst in lockdown, and embarking on court proceedings in this uncertain time (which is likely to involve some delay) may not feel like an attractive option for parents.
Judges in local courts have asked us as family lawyers to try and take some of the pressure off the court system. We are being asked to consider whether it may be appropriate for some of our clients to engage in a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) rather than making court applications.
So what may be an alternative to making an application to court in cases involving children?
It may be appropriate for your case to be dealt with in Arbitration. Children Arbitration can offer a speedy and prompt solution for some individuals. A specialist children barrister could act as your private judge, and whether as a paper exercise, or after listening to both sides remotely or with physical presence at their chambers, the Arbitrator can provide a written determination quickly. The determination made by the Arbitrator would be legally binding. Fees would apply for the barrister’s time but this can actually be cheaper then embarking on a costly court process.
Arbitration may be appropriate if, for example there are disputes about the contact/living arrangements for a child or children, whether a child should go on holiday with the other parent, what their surname should be, what school they should attend etc. However there are some exceptions and some types of cases may not be appropriate for Arbitration, for example cases involving abduction or certain cases about relocating with a child abroad. Alternatively, there may be welfare concerns about a child raised by either of the parties which may warrant further investigation by the court.
If you are considering embarking on the Arbitration process, it important to take legal advice from a family lawyer initially as to whether your case is suitable and what the process would involve. If Arbitration is appropriate, there must be an agreement between both parties to use it and an Arbitrator would need to be selected from the “Institute of Family Law Arbitrators”.
As family lawyers, we can help you with the Arbitration process generally. We can engage with the other party to see if Arbitration can be agreed. We can assist with drafting documents, statements and other evidence on your behalf so a fair determination can be given.
If you require any advice in respect of children issues generally or any other family law issue, then please do not hesitate to contact the team on 01625 544 650.