The Child Arbitration scheme launched in July 2016 covers all private law Children Act Disputes between parents, parents and grandparents, cases where a party lacks capacity under the Mental Health Act, medical treatment cases of a life threatening nature, applications for injunctions, applications to commit someone to prison, cases involving parents who are minors and cases where a child needs separate legal representation.
Arbitration is a more informal process than that of a court. The parties decide when and where the hearing will take place. They also choose the arbitrator themselves.
The parties can choose arbitration from the start of the dispute or part way through court proceedings and a referral can be made at the dispute resolution appointment hearing. Arbitration is binding on the parties involved.
The parties or their legal advisers refer the matter to arbitration by completing form ARB1CS which is sent to the Institute of Family Arbitrators. An arbitrator is appointed and the first hearing known as a planning meeting is set up. Following the arbitration which usually lasts up to a day a written determination will be given the terms of which are incorporated into a consent order which is then sent to the court for approval by a judge in the usual way. It will only be in the rarest of cases appropriate for a judge to do anything other than approve the order. An appeal against the decision of the arbitrator is only possible on a matter of law or a serious irregularity in the way the arbitration has been conducted.
Arbitration is a more informal process than that of a court.
The process from start to finish will take less time than court proceedings and the lengthy delays with court listing are avoided.
The cost of arbitration is cheaper as arbitrators often charge fixed fees. Arbitration is less stressful as it is likely to be resolved in one hearing and can sometimes be dealt decided on documents alone.
With the proposed court closures and a court system which is overburdened arbitration can be a cost effective, less stressful and quicker way to resolve children disputes between the parties.