Family Courts Moving Towards Speedy Private Financial Agreements

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Arbitration is going to fast track family law cases through the system by allowing couples to use it to settle financial disagreements – speedy private justice is well on its way to becoming a permanent feature in family law.

Family Financial Disagreements

Costs Reduced By Using Arbitration


Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, aims to reform the Family Law and Court of Protection systems. He made his position clear on the subject of using arbitration for private financial settlements in divorce cases when he endorsed there use in a judgment, making them legally enforceable. The couple in question reached the decree nisi stage of their divorce and chose to refer the financial part to arbitration, dealing with the large amount of assets they had to split.

According to the solicitor who acted for the couple, not only were costs reduced to a "fraction" of what they might have been. The process reportedly only took around 8 weeks, from agreeing to arbitrate to the final award.

Causes for Divorce Changing with the Times


Using arbitration in this way will make it easier and cheaper for couples. It will give them a clear straightforward route if they want to make a private financial agreement that can be recognised by the family courts. Sir James wants to "move forward" using arbitration and other ways to resolve family disputes.

The causes for divorce are also changing, leaving more options open, such as using mediation to settle disagreements.

Contrary to popular belief, adultery is not the main reason couples are splitting up and going their separate ways. Workplace pressures are becoming an increasing problem, creating tension between working couples. Keeping an eye on emails and becoming addicted to smartphones and iPads are the main culprits.

Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Law at Simpson Millar LLP believes arbitration will become more and more popular for the following reasons:

  • The courts are overburdened with family cases and the waiting time for a hearing is now so long (up to 6 months in some courts), that people will elect for arbitration to get the job done quicker
  • People might be able to resolve 9 out of 10 issues, but that last issue is the sticking point. Arbitration is a more cost effective way of dealing with specific issue disputes
  • Clients won't have a choice of judge but will have a choice of arbitrator. This gives more security to many who feel confident of a fair and reasonable outcome


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