Family arbitration is now five years old. Launched in February 2012 by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, it has grown rapidly in popularity.

Arbitration has many advantages over court, including flexibility, confidentiality and speed. The parties can choose their arbitrator, and how and when the arbitration proceeds. The process is private and does not permit the presence of media representatives.

From the outset, family arbitration has covered specific financial and property disputes arising from family relationships, including divorce, civil partnership dissolution and unmarried couples’ separation, along with financial claims for children within schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989. A year ago the scheme was expanded further.

In July 2016, the Family Law Children Arbitration Scheme was introduced. This has further broadened the scope of this key method of dispute resolution.

The children scheme now offers resolution of disputes relating to the exercise of parental responsibility and other private law issues about the welfare of children by way of arbitration.

Family arbitrators comprise solicitors, barristers and retired judges. Two solicitors have teamed up to write this authoritative guide. Dennis Sheridan wrote the first edition of this book on this newest form of family dispute resolution, before the introduction of the children scheme. He has now been joined by Suzanne Kingston, who spearheaded arbitration training for family lawyers. This second edition covers both schemes.

With a detailed narrative on both financial and children schemes, offering detailed procedure and guidance, the book also has very useful appendices setting out rules for each scheme. It features relevant legislation, practice guidance and articles putting family arbitration in context. Useful forms and precedents are also included – these cover arbitration application forms, draft terms of engagement for arbitrators, along with checklists covering a final award or determination, plus certain letter precedents.

The first edition, a ready-made toolkit for family arbitrators and, indeed, any family lawyer wanting to be fully informed about this highly adaptable and effective method of dispute resolution, was very good. The second edition is even better.

This should not be seen as some specialist publication. All family lawyers, whether arbitrators or not, must understand how arbitration works, advise our clients about it as one of the various methods of dispute resolution, and indeed thereby encourage its use. This book gives all family practitioners the resources to do that.

Tony Roe is a family law arbitrator and principal of Tony Roe Divorce & Family Law Solicitors, Theale, Reading.

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