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Arbitration in Private Children Law Cases


What is Arbitration and how can it help?

Arbitration offers parents choices as an alternative to litigating through the court system. Currently children arbitration is limited to cases where it is clear that there are no welfare issues which would ordinarily be flagged up by the initial CAFCASS investigations prior to the first hearing.  Children Arbitration also cannot deal with cases where there are allegations of domestic violence or where there is an international element to the dispute, including specific issues such as international holidays.

Therefore, the typical case which is ideal is the more common scenario in which there is a child arrangements dispute or indeed a dispute as to specific issues such as schooling, medical treatment or more discrete issues such as logistics of handovers.

Children arbitration offers parents the choice: the choice of Arbitrator, a private law children specialist as opposed to unqualified magistrates’ tribunal; the choice of experts if necessary; the choice of what areas of dispute need to be adjudicated and importantly the time-frame in which a determination can be reached.  What this means is that parents regain some control over what happens to them and their children; a sense of control which is currently missing from going through the very expensive, lengthy and frustrating court system.

We are at present in an ever changing legal and political climate which is reflected within the family justice system.  On a day to day basis it is becoming abundantly clear that the political agenda is to squeeze private law children cases out of the current legal system.  The judiciary would go as far as to say that this has been made clear to them by the government.

What does this mean for our clients? These cases are private law proceedings, where parents are asking the courts to help them decide the arrangements for their children.  Parents who are unable, for many reasons, to reach these decisions between themselves are asking for help.  Yet the help that the court system offers is failing not only these parents but the children subject to those proceedings.

As more and more court closures are being reported almost every month, family practitioners increasingly despair at what the legal system can offer clients. In appropriate cases, arbitration offers a most welcome alternative.

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