Lucinda Ferguson makes some interesting points on arbitration in her letter ‘Final and binding awards’ (22 April), referring to the relatively new Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) scheme.
Article 13 of the family law arbitration rules is quite clear. The arbitration award is final and binding on the parties, not on the court (13.3). Moreover, the article goes on to provide that this bindingness is subject to any requirement for the award to be embodied in a court order, and any changes which the court making the order may require.
The IFLA scheme offers many things the courts cannot. The entire process is confidential by its nature. The parties can choose their arbitrator. Subject to the arbitrator, the timetable is down to the parties to agree. There can be an expedited procedure if the arbitrator agrees. Finally, there may be a saving of overall costs over court proceedings.
Last month, Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, told family law professionals in Reading that the family justice system was ‘in the last chance saloon’. He said: ‘We have to realise that public finances remain in a dire state and that asking for more money, more judges, more this, more that, is simply crying for the moon.’
As a family law arbitrator in a niche practice offering all forms of dispute resolution, I recognise that the IFLA scheme is potentially much more than another tool in the box. With the court system starved of resources, and its time increasingly taken up by litigants in person, the IFLA scheme may become a very realistic choice for those undergoing financial and property disputes arising from family relationships.
Tony Roe, Tony Roe Solicitors, Theale, Berkshire