Family Law Arbitration Another Option For Separated Couples

Irwin Mitchell Head of Family Law Martin Loxley Becomes Qualified Arbitrator


Separated couples trying to resolve their disputes over finances, property and children have another option to resolve their difference out of court as arbitration becomes more and more popular.

Martin Loxley, Head of the national Family Law team at Irwin Mitchell has recently qualified as a member of The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and can now help couples resolve their disputes without the need for court proceedings.

The family law arbitration scheme covers divorce settlements, financial provision for children, property and inheritance issues. After the couple have agreed to undertake arbitration they present their evidence to the arbitrator, who then considers the case and makes a legally binding award.

It is common in commercial law but its use in family law is new this year and represents another alternative to issuing court proceedings which can cost more and take longer to resolve. There is also the flexibility for couples to appoint the qualified arbitrator of their choice, rather than the situation in court where the judge appointed is out of their hands.

Martin Loxley, who runs Irwin Mitchell’s team of specialist family lawyers across the UK, said: “Arbitration is like a halfway step between mediation and court. The decisions are reached by a qualified arbitrator and are legally binding. But there is more flexibility in the process than court proceedings, both in terms of timescales and the arbitrator residing over the case.

“The family law arbitration scheme gives people going through family law disputes another option to resolve their financial cases whether that is divorce settlements, child maintenance payments or property disputes.

“Many of my clients have been interested in the prospect of this kind of resolution process as they often see the courts as a very last resort and want some option to settle out-of-court. We also often hear from mediators who are struggling to get both parties to agree and welcome arbitration as a means to achieve a quick and fair solution for both sides.

“Judges in family law cases are increasingly trying to encourage people to try and resolve their cases through discussion and mediation, and arbitration is the next logical step for when mediation isn’t enough.”

Couple’s wishing to undergo an arbitration agree up front that any award will be binding although arrangements for financial and/or property issues on divorce or separation will need to be confirmed by the court. This is usually a paper process because the Arbitrator has taken the work out of their hands.

But Loxley says this process should largely be procedural with courts simply rubber stamping arbitration awards.

He said: “From our experience we would expect the courts to uphold awards that are made by qualified arbitrators as the scheme is designed to achieve a fair result awarded independently.”