Birketts leads the way in providing entirely new option to resolve the financial disputes of separating couples

Published: 22/02/2012

Birketts LLP leading the way in providing an entirely new, quicker and potentially cheaper option for separating couples in East Anglia to enable them to resolve their financial or property disputes outside of a formal court process. 

The national Family Arbitration Scheme was launched today [Wednesday 22 February 2012] by the newly formed Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA). Under the scheme, IFLA has formed a panel of experienced family lawyers who will act as arbitrators, or effectively a ‘private judge’, for disputing couples.

Fewer than 40 lawyers, mainly retired judiciary and highly experienced specialist practitioners, have so far qualified as family arbitrators in the UK. There are only four in East Anglia including Oliver Gravell, family law specialist here at Birketts.

Oliver Gravell is currently the only qualified family arbitrator based in Ipswich. Oliver will also provide this new service via our Norwich and Chelmsford offices to ensure the option is available across the region.

Previously, for separating couples where mediation or collaborative law was unsuitable, the only remaining option was to go to court and put the decision in the hands of a judge.

Similar to the court process, a family arbitrator will hear both parties’ case as set out by their lawyers, listen to any evidence and then make a decision on the issues which they have been unable to resolve.  The decision is known as an ‘Award’ and is binding on them. It can cover either the whole case, or distinct parts of it, for example interim maintenance, division of assets or ownership of property. It has the added advantage of full privacy and confidentiality.  

Oliver Gravell explains: “Arbitration has been around for a long time in other aspects of law including in commercial and construction contracts.  But it has never been used before in resolving family law cases.

“We are proud that Birketts is leading the way in providing this new option and that we continue to provide creative solutions to assist our clients when their family relationships break down. This is part of our commitment to provide all the different approaches to resolving family disputes including mediation and collaborative law alongside the traditional court based approach.”

It is hoped the new scheme will save also save court resources and reduce pressure on the already stretched family courts. The formal launch of IFLA will take place in London on 26 March 2012 and will be chaired by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

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