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Family Law Arbitration

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution. The parties enter into an agreement under which they appoint a suitably qualified person (an “arbitrator”) to adjudicate a dispute and make an award.

In February 2012, a new scheme, set up by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA), was launched to enable family disputes to be resolved by arbitration.

IFLA, a recently formed not for profit organisation, has been founded with involvement from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), the Family Law Bar Association, and the family lawyers' group Resolution, in association with the Centre for Child and Family Law Reform. IFLA will govern and promote the scheme for family law arbitration in England and Wales, providing a new form of dispute resolution within family law.

A panel of experienced family lawyers have been trained as family arbitrators under the scheme and to date, the bespoke training course, which has been developed together with and delivered by CIArb, has attracted the retired judiciary and highly experienced specialist practitioners from across the country.

Arbitration under the scheme will be conducted under the family arbitration rules which have been developed by IFLA. This means disputing couples can agree to appoint their own arbitrator, or have the IFLA select one for them from its register of approved arbitrators.

The scheme covers: financial disputes arising from divorce; claims on inheritance from a child, spouse, etc; financial claims made in England and Wales after a divorce abroad; claims for child maintenance between unmarried parents; disputes about ownership of a property between cohabiting couples and civil partnership financial claims. Disputes will be resolved exclusively by applying the laws of this country, in the same way as the Family Courts.

IFLA developed the arbitration scheme to enable parties to resolve financial disputes more quickly, cheaply and in a more flexible and less formal setting than a court room. It is also expected to save court resources and reduce pressure on the already stretched family courts.

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