Family Law

Family Court or Family Arbitration?

24 SEP 2020

Family Court or Family Arbitration?


When couples can’t agree how to resolve issues on separation/divorce, most people immediately think they have to apply to the Court.

But, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Family Court process was becoming slower and more frustrating for many people. Now there are staff shortages as well as a backlog of cases that are not suitable for remote hearings, using the Court to resolve issues could take over a year (if you are lucky).

So should you consider Family Arbitration?

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions answered by our specialist family lawyer, Barbara Richardson.


Q: Will we get a Court Order if we use Family Arbitration?

A: Yes – the arbitrator will make a financial award or, in a children’s case, a determination of the arrangements. This decision is the equivalent of a final judgment in a Court case.


In financial cases a Court order will be made in the same terms.



Q: What sort of disputes can be resolved using Family Arbitration?

A: Family arbitrators can deal with disputes concerning:

  • the resolution of financial issues between divorcing spouses,
  • financial support for children,
  • living arrangements for children and the arrangements for children to see the other parent,
  • disputes about children’s education and other arrangements,
  • disputes about whether one parent should be able to move with the child to a different part of England and Wales.


Q: What happens if one of us decides not to cooperate with Family Arbitration?

A: You both have to agree to use Family Arbitration but, once you have both signed the application form, you have both agreed to be bound by the decision of the family arbitrator and the arbitration can only come to an end when a decision is made or if you both agree.


Q: What are the advantages of using Family Arbitration?

A: The Family Courts follow a fixed timetable and this is usually a slow process. Family Arbitration cases can be dealt with in periods of weeks and can be dealt with flexibly with complete confidentiality and less formality.

Like the Court, the arbitrator makes a decision acting fairly and impartially, applying the law, and you are guaranteed that a decision will be made which will be as binding and enforceable as a court order. Although you and your ex-partner share the family arbitrator’s fees, these fees are agreed at the start of the process. Usually, your own lawyer’s fees will be reduced because of the flexibility of the arbitration process which can be tailored to meet your particular needs and minimise delay.


Q: Where can I find out more about arbitration?

A: The family law organisation, Resolution, has more information including their own guide about arbitration at

The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators is a non-profit organisation and they have detailed information about how arbitration works, who it is suitable for and the names of qualified arbitrators at


When you take advice on how to resolve disputes arising on separation/divorce, ask your lawyer about all of the options including arbitration.

Our experienced family lawyers are here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact Nicola Codd or Barbara Richardson for advice.

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