It is now possible to arbitrate on issues involving the exercise of parental responsibility and other private children law matters, now that The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) has launched the Family Law Arbitration Children Scheme.

IFLA was created by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Family Law Bar Association and Resolution, in association with the Centre for Child and Family Law reform and is a not for profit organisation.  In 2012 IFLA launched the family arbitration scheme but this was limited to addressing matters relating to matrimonial finances, including child maintenance.  There are approximately 170 Arbitrators nationwide at present with around 100 arbitrations since launching.

Although a worthwhile tool in many situations to resolve finances, one of the downsides of Arbitration has been that the, often frequent, concurrent private children issues have not also been capable of resolution through this medium.  Families have therefore had no option but to use  the Court process  to obtain a Child Arrangements Order, setting out  which parent any children will live and spend time with respectively.

With the introduction of the new Children Scheme, it is envisaged that Arbitration will become a much more widespread option of out of court dispute resolution, especially as it will allow parents to resolve issues relating  to parental responsibility in a more timely and efficient manner, rather than waiting on hearing dates to be listed by Courts and sometimes only having a matter of minutes before a Judge.

As with all Arbitrations, couples will benefit from opting for more comfortable and less formal venues, compared to a Court room and also, confidentiality can be guaranteed where this is appropriate.  This makes for an overall less stressful experience for both parents and hopefully, for the children involved.  Arbitration is, however, a voluntary process and will only prove fruitful when both parents agree and commit to it.   Equally the Courts have recently indicated that where a decision is made by arbitration, the parties are to be bound by it unless there is a good reason not to be.

The new scheme was launched on 18 July 2016 and there are currently more than 30 trained Arbitrators to assist families seeking an out of court dispute resolution on children matters.

For more information on arbitration or any other family law matter, please contact Manisha Hurchurn on 0207 240 0521 or at Manisha.hurchurn@mackrell.com.