Arbitration, Private Hearings and Early Neutral Evaluations

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Family disputes are painful enough without having to conduct them in public.  When negotiations have broken down or reached a stalemate, there are private options that you can consider as an alternative to court proceedings.

Unfortunately, the English Courts are overcrowded and underfunded.  You can wait months to get a hearing and then are not guaranteed to get a judge on the day because of a combination of emergency hearings take precedence and a shortage of judges.

If your former partner agrees we can arrange a private hearing (held in a neutral place) with a ‘private judge’ (a retired judge or experience barrister) with a view to reaching a settlement on the various issues. 

Private hearings can offer you more flexibility, speed and comfort. 

Arbitration

Arbitration is another alternative to court based litigation.  It is designed for couples who have not been able to reach an agreement and who want the finality of a “judgment”. The main benefits of arbitration are:-

  • You can choose your arbitrator (usually a very senior solicitor/barrister or a retired Judge);
  • You set the timetable based on your own availability;
  • The process is completely private;
  • You choose the venue for the hearing(s) (which will undoubtedly be more comfortable than court);
  • You can choose what level of disclosure you want and which issues you want the arbitrator to determine;
  • You control the procedure, for example, whether there will be a hearing with oral evidence or a decision based on the papers;
  • From start to finish, the process can be a lot quicker than court proceedings; and
  • You still get a legally binding result, which will be converted into a court order (except in extreme circumstances).

Arbitration offers you a way to take control of the process in order to minimise the stress involved so far as possible.

If you would like more information on arbitration, please visit the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators website here .

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) including private Financial Dispute Resolution hearings

Early Neutral Evaluation is used to resolve both children and financial disputes (when it is usually known as a private Financial Dispute Resolution hearing or “private FDR”).

The judge reviews the relevant evidence before a hearing with both parties and their legal representatives present.  At the hearing, both sides will explain their positions to the evaluator who will assess the merits of each case and explain what they think a court would decide based on the evidence.  The evaluator does not have the power to say what will happen next - it is up to the parties and their lawyers.  Usually the indication is either adopted by the parties as a settlement or forms the starting point (and yardstick) for negotiations. 

ENE has all of the benefits of arbitration without tying the parties into a binding decision.  It can be very effective, particularly since the parties will have chosen their “Judge” themselves and so their opinion will hold significant weight in negotiations.

We can discuss the pros and cons of these alternatives to litigation with you in detail at the outset of your case.

Recent examples of work

  • Acting for wife in an arbitration where she was seeking to ascertain and obtain the correct amount of her husband's bonus as part of her maintenance claim.  The couple could not agree the amount of arrears of maintenance or the amount to be received from the husband's bonus, so the wife was forced to make an application. In choosing arbitration, the wife obtained a speedy and cost effective decision to secure her future maintenance.
  • Representing a wife in a long marriage where the husband was a banker offshore and his remunerative package was complicated and required investigation. The couple wished to retain a positive relationship for the benefit of their children and agreed to instruct a senior barrister QC to act as a judge in a private hearing (otherwise known as a financial dispute resolution (FDR) hearing). Following the private hearing, the judge managed to broker a settlement without attendance at Court.

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Legal 500 UK

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Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

 

If you require further information or advice from our team of specialist family lawyers, please contact a member of our team or call us on +44 (0)20 7814 1200.

"They made a very difficult time much easier to deal with. Their professionalism kept me sane and focused on the outcome I needed"

Client

"It's a team that has a great breadth of experience across the board and particularly in international cases"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

"All have been excellent and have shown great diligence and practicality, along with sensitivity during a very difficult time in my life"

Client

"Rolls-Royce service and particularly good when there's a European element to the case"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

"A standout firm"

Legal 500 UK

"Professional yet sympathetic manner and the team always fights hard to defend your interests"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

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