Arbitration is an out-of-court process where the parties appoint an arbitrator effectively to act as a judge and make an award. The award is agreed to be binding between the parties, subject to the family court making the award into an order.
First, the couple decides that they would like to enter the arbitration process. They then sign what is called the Form ARB1 and send it to the IFLA Administrator. The Form gives the parties the option to nominate their own arbitrator or request that IFLA nominate a family arbitrator.
Upon the appointment of an arbitrator, the parties need to agree the terms of the family arbitration, particularly the nature of the dispute which the arbitrator is asked to preside over, the procedure the arbitration will follow – e.g. should the application largely be dealt with on paper or through witness evidence – and agree the fees and how they will be paid.
The parties will then move on to the arbitration itself. Depending on what the parties agreed in the arbitration agreement, the process may vary. It tends to include a case management meeting to discuss the appointment of expert witnesses and properly establish any issues in dispute. Thereafter, there may be interim hearings leading up to a final meeting whereby an arbitration award will be issued.
The parties will then take the award to the court and ask that it is converted into a court order which completes the proceedings. It is only possible to appeal the arbitration award if there has been a legal error or if there is serious irregularity.
Yes – the arbitration award is final and is generally converted into a final court order. The award can be appealed – but only if there has been a legal error or serious irregularity.
At the moment, arbitration can only be used in family matters concerning finances, property and child maintenance. It cannot be used for the divorce itself, nor in dealing with the child contact arrangements.