Category Archive:Children

Child Arbitration is this the new way forward?

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.

Process

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.

Advantages

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.

Books to help children during and after divorce

When going through a divorce, it is not only difficult for the parents but also the children. Here are some children’s books to help children understand the divorce process, their feelings and how to deal with their new situation.

For the younger audience

  1. Monday, Wednesday and every other Weekend by Karen Stanton is a wonderfully illustrated book where the story line suits children experiencing a parents’ divorce where they move between house to house. The involvement of a dog takes the attention of the parents’ divorce away from the story.
  2. For conversation starters and prompts for the parent and child to discuss and understand divorce, read My Family’s Changing by Pat Thomas. It explains the stages of divorce and its aftermath. It helps the child identify their feelings and how they can overcome these and the changing behaviours of the parents after divorce.
  3. Jack by Helen Victoria Bishop and Simon Murray is a story of reassurance and comfort which explores the feelings of a child after divorce. It recognises the grief of the child after divorce, and how they blame themselves. It portrays that the child needs reassuring that they are not the cause of the divorce and they are still loved.
  4. Dinosaurs Divorce by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown explains the reasoning, possibility and aftermath of a divorce including a glossary of divorce words. It also explores how to overcome the issue of dealing with two homes, how to tell his/her friends and how to cope with new ‘friends’ of his/her parents.
  5. Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray provides a soft approach to explaining why divorce happens and reminds the child that his parents will always love them. It is a story of a child realising cracks in his parents’ marriage and trying to fix it but coming to terms with divorce being the best option.
  6. Was it the Chocolate Pudding? by Sandra Levins is a story about the life of a child after their parents’ divorce, detailing life with each parent, the things they do and how each house has its benefits. The child looks back on how his actions ‘caused’ the divorce, but with a strong reassurance that divorces are not the child’s fault.
  7. Children don’t divorce by Rosemary Stones explores the upset after a divorce and the difficulty of not seeing both parents every day, but then the child learns to accept their new life and their parents’ new partners. It speaks of the realisation of the child that divorce is not uncommon; many parents and children go through the same thing.

For older children

  1. The Divorce Helpbook for Kids by Cynthia MacGregor, is a self-help book for children whose parents are going through divorce. It discusses changes in the home, why parents can’t stay together, what happens after the divorce, dealing with their feelings, keeping a relationship with each parent and FAQ’s about divorce.
  2. Lemons 2 Lemonade Workbook by Christina McGhee is an interactive workbook which helps the child go through all stages of a divorce such as housing, people to talk to and feelings.
  3. The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson is a story about the struggles of a young girl stuck between her parents who don’t get along, living out of a suitcase and moving between houses each week. Despite having to get along with her parents’ new families, getting bad marks at school and losing touch with her friends, she eventually makes new friends and accepts her new life.
  4. Clean Break by Jacqueline Wilson is another story about a girl, who has already gone through her parents’ divorce and lives with her new family. However, her new family struggle to accept that the stepdad has left for his new girlfriend especially when they move to Scotland. The stepdad and girlfriend split up and the stepdad ends up returning to the family.

The following video from Resolution, may also be of assistance:

 

Arbitration for children cases is here!

Members of Cambridge Family Dispute Resolution Group acknowledge that court is not always the best place to settle disputes that have arisen out of intimate relationships. Sometimes court proceedings are unavoidable; but wherever there is a possibility of keeping things away from a judge, we try to do that. We negotiate, mediate, collaborate on behalf of our clients when appropriate to do so. However, we can now also “arbitrate” in children matters after a scheme was formally launched on Monday evening this week at a reception in the Inns of Court.

The child law scheme has come into being because of the great success of arbitration in financial divorce matters. The financial scheme started in 2012, and it’s fair to say it was a slow-burn, but in a case in 2014 our head judge handed down judgment where he affirmed and approved a financial award made by an arbitrator appointed under the scheme. In his judgment the President said, “There is no conceptual difference between the parties making an agreement and agreeing to give an arbitrator the power to make the decision for them.” This provided the reassurance about certainty of outcome that many practitioners were waiting for, and since then the practice of family law arbitration has grown exponentially.

It also led directly to the new Family Law Children Arbitration Scheme. The new scheme offers the opportunity to resolve disputes about the care, upbringing and welfare of children after parental separation and divorce by arbitration. It covers internal relocation cases (though not at the moment external relocation), child arrangement orders, change of name requests, disputes about education and prohibited steps orders.

Arbitration becomes an option when avenues for settlement of the dispute by agreement have been explored and have not led to a solution. The arbitrator has the power to impose a settlement on those in dispute, and he or she does so by their consent. Unlike a court, which can compel someone to attend and make someone subject to court orders whether or not they agree, arbitrators can only act if both sides of the dispute agree that they should.

If this is the case, though, the advantages of arbitration are many. There is no waiting around for court dates as you can choose your arbitrator on the basis of availability – or indeed on any other basis – and speed can be especially important when dealing with children matters. There is also more chance of arranging appointments with an arbitrator that are convenient for everyone involved, as opposed to fixed court hearings. The arbitration procedure is flexible and can be adapted to fit the particular circumstances of the case in terms of evidence heard, and the issues decided – from everything, to a single discrete matter. The costs of arbitration are almost always substantially lower than taking a case through the courts to a final hearing.

If a case goes to court, CAFCASS will usually be called upon to provide a report to the court about the children’s wishes and feelings. In arbitration, it is usual to request the assistance of an independent social worker to perform this role. It is fully intended that the children themselves are at the heart of arbitration in children matters, just as the court is led by a detailed consideration of their welfare before it makes a decision concerning them. Arbitrators apply the same law as the courts. If you wish to explore the option of Arbitration further then please do contact our members and they will be able to answer your questions, alternatively please contact any one of our arbitrators and they will be able to provide you with information with respect to the scheme.

At the launch, the Chair of IFLA (the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators), Lord Falconer, said:

The new children arbitration scheme will enable couples to resolve disputes concerning parental responsibility of children more quickly, cheaply and in a more flexible, less formal setting than a court room. It will also guarantee confidentiality where that is required or necessary. These are all important ingredients to minimising conflict and supporting the best interests of children.”

At a time when our courts are under significant pressures, the availability of arbitration for children matters builds on the long and proud tradition arbitration has in other areas, and gives parents and practitioners another tool with which to resolve family disputes

If you wish to explore the option of Arbitration further then please do contact our members and they will be able to answer your questions, alternatively please contact any one of our arbitrators and they will be able to provide you with information with respect to the scheme.