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Children and holidays or moving abroad – separated parents don’t always need the Court to decide

It has been confirmed this morning that the Children Arbitration Scheme has been extended to allow Children Arbitrators to make decisions on whether or not it’s in a child’s best interests to leave the country, whether that be for a holiday or a permanent move abroad with a parent.

Arbitration is an alternative to the Court system, where the parents agree to appoint an independent, qualified Arbitrator to hear their arguments in their case and to make a binding decision, in the same way (and applying the same law) that a Judge would do.

The benefits of arbitration include:

  • Choice of “judge” – the parties are able to choose their own arbitrator, instead of having a judge allocated at random
  • Convenience – the parties can choose the date (and location) of the arbitration, so that it works for everyone involved (instead of being at the mercy of the court timetable)
  • Speed – the process can take as little as a few weeks from start to end, whereas court cases would generally take several months (and potentially over a year) to get to a final hearing
  • Quality of service – whereas judges in the court system are often juggling multiple cases in one day and may or may not have had time to review the papers in your case in advance of the hearing in order to prepare for it, with arbitration the parties have the assurance that the arbitrator has set aside the day to deal with just their case and will have fully read into all the background before it starts.

While the children arbitration scheme has been up and running for a while in relation to issues such as where a child lives, how much time they spend with each parent and specific issues such as what school they go to, Arbitrators have not been able to deal with issues around holidays abroad or potential moves to another country.  This is no longer the case, provided that the country in question has signed up to the Hague Convention on international child abduction.

Arbitration is particularly well suited to these sorts of cases, in particular due to the ability of the Arbitrator to decide the issue in a matter of weeks. All too often issues arise as to whether a parent should be allowed to take a child on holiday abroad only weeks before the holiday is due to take place, which can result in a missed holiday and financial loss. It’s not uncommon for parents to be arguing about a holiday to Spain in the summer holidays in say June. It is often a struggle for the courts to deal with this in such a short time frame, but an Arbitrator is very well placed to do so.

Likewise a parent who wishes to move permanently to another country often has a deadline in mind – e.g. they want to move in time to enrol a child in school for the start of a new school year or term. Again, using Arbitration means this can be dealt with in a matter of weeks, rather than months. Both parents (and the child) can then know where they stand much more quickly and are not in limbo whilst an application progresses slowly through the courts.

If you would like any more information about Children Arbitration, please contact Emily Watson, our qualified Children Arbitrator, on 01727 734260.

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