Family Arbitration – Friend or foe


Suzy Miller are family law solicitors going to support the education of their clients with regard to accessing Arbitration – or are they going to effectively hinder the process?

Arbitrator Olive McCarthy believes that a setback to the scheme is that unfortunately other family solicitors have yet to embrace the revolutionary process and its benefits. “Arbitrators believe this maybe through a fear on the part of solicitors that they will lose out by referring to Arbitration.

However, clients need representation and advice in the process.

Another fear they may have is that if an award favours one client, the other client may complain about the choice of Arbitrator if their solicitor nominated the Arbitrator. However, The Institute for Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) can nominate an Arbitrator instead.”

Olive thinks that solicitors may be unsure as to what happens in the process and do not want to look inexperienced in front of their clients. She reassures them: “It’s similar to a First Appointment in financial remedy proceedings but can be adapted so as to suit the circumstances of the case. Nothing to fear!” 

David Hodson OBE, Partner at The International Family Law Group LLP, was the originator and one of the creators of the English family arbitration scheme, and one of the first trained.

He says: “It took 10 years for family arbitration to go from a good idea through to possibility then to reality but it has arrived at just the right time.

family arbitration friend or foe
Family Arbitration – Friend or Foe

With the dramatic cutback in legal aid, ever increasing legal costs, real delays in having cases heard in court and with many people wanting a more flexible and adaptable system for resolving disputes, this is really a good time and opportunity to use family arbitration. Many have already done so and have felt it has been a beneficial experience and outcome. It should be considered by many people and their lawyers.”

James Pirrie of Family Law In Partnership is a staunch supporter of Arbitration and is frustrated by the lack of support from other divorce professionals:

“My experience is that we try much harder as arbitrators and work with fine scalpels instead of the meat cleavers that are more often in evidence at court just because of the pressures of the court list.

I find it infuriating that the resistance to stepping into arbitration so often comes from the divorce professionals.

In their daily lives, those professionals struggle within the court system to deliver principled, efficient, careful and affordable outcomes to their clients but they don’t take the step over the threshold into arbitration which is the system that would enable those goals to be delivered so much more easily.” James Pirrie, Solicitor, collaborative lawyer, arbitrator, mediator & Board member Resolution

I think it will be interesting to see how many Family Law Solicitors in the UK will recommend Financial Arbitration as a good option for those couples who are struggling to come to an agreement on a financial or legal issue.

As is the case with Mediation and Collaborative Law, I feel strongly that it is the general public who need to be more aware of the options open to them, and not wait for the legal profession as a whole to embrace another great tool in the toolbox of a non-adversarial divorce or separation.

The benefits are summed up clearly and in plain-English here by Mediator and Arbitrator Nadia Beckett of Beckett LLP in this short video, and even to a non-legal person, the benefits do seem to be overwhelmingly clear:

For more information regarding Family Arbitration, refer to the IFLA website:


By Suzy Miller creator of the Alternative Divorce Guide and the Living Together Agreement

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