Arbitration, like mediation, is used to reach agreement on money and property issues following the end of a relationship. The main benefit of arbitration is the flexibility it gives you to resolve disputes quickly, privately and without the need to go to court.
In most cases, you and your former partner will choose an arbitrator together. However if you are unable to agree, the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (ILFA) will select a suitable arbitrator for you, based on your specific needs.
Your arbitrator will deal with your case from start to finish, and will arrange the process according to your preferences; for example you can decide where and when any hearings take place and how you want to share the details of your finances.
At the end of the process the arbitrator makes a final decision which is legally binding. This is known as an ‘award’. The arbitrator can also make temporary awards during the process, such as maintenance payments or the disclosure of more information.
The final award must be made reasonably soon after the process has finished. It has to be in writing and explain the reasons behind the decision. You can also ask for a court order to reflect the terms of the award, meaning it can be enforced.
Generally the cost of arbitration is shared between the people involved, although there are no hard and fast rules. Ultimately it is down to you and your former partner to agree who will cover the arbitrator’s fees, venue hire, etc.
There are some situations where arbitration might not be suitable, for example if a couple cannot agree to use arbitration, or if there is a risk that your former partner might try to hide their assets. However these situations are rare and for most people with outstanding financial issues, arbitration is a useful alternative to going to court.