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Arbitration is one way to resolve the financial issues around your divorce without involving a judge. It has many advantages – it’s usually a quicker way to resolve contentious matters than going to court. And it can often be a cheaper route to finalising a financial agreement. But it’s also worth highlighting one of the limitations of arbitration, demonstrated by a recent case (BC v BG – that the arbitrator’s decision is final. That means when you agree to arbitration you are agreeing to be bound by the result. Only in exceptional circumstances will someone who is unhappy with the decision be able to challenge it.

 

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

In recent years we’ve seen a definite shift away from sole reliance on the family courts to resolve issues surrounding divorce. Of course we still need the court to make decree nisi and decree absolute orders. And it’s always advisable to get any agreement you have reached with your former spouse formalised in a consent order by the court. But more and more family law disputes are settled by way of alternative dispute resolution. Reasons for this include:

  • The dramatic reduction in the availability of legal aid in family cases
  • Uncertainty in court outcomes caused by the wide discretion available to judges under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973
  • Increased delays in getting a suitable court date

At Brookman Solicitors in London we are members of Resolution so we are committed to finding ways to resolve disputes in as non-confrontational a way as possible. Ways to handle divorce without going to court include:

  • Arbitration – you and your partner engage the services of a family law arbitrator (there are about 200 in England and Wales) to make a binding decision on financial and other issues. An arbitrator can’t deal with all children issues however.
  • Mediation – a trained mediator will guide you and your partner towards agreeing issues you find difficult to resolve
  • Collaborative law – each person appoints a collaborative lawyer to work with them to reach a settlement. Collaborative lawyers are unable to represent you if the collaborative process is unsuccessful. This provides a real incentive to the lawyers and the couple to make the collaborative process work.
  • Solicitor negotiations – a solicitor negotiates an agreement with your partner’s solicitor using their expertise of family law and their understanding of the likely outcome if your case went to court

Many couples decide to manage the process themselves. In our experience this is really only appropriate in the most straightforward cases. If there are financial matters of any complexity – for example pension valuations  – it is important to remember that you may be signing away significant rights that you will not be able to recover in the future. Many law firms offer free consultations, including Brookman. These short meetings are a useful way to get an overview of the process and decide whether it’s in your interests to instruct a solicitor to represent you in your divorce.

 

The Arbitratior’s Decision Is Final

The case we mentioned above, BC v BG, was brought by a wife who was unhappy with an award made by the arbitrator she and her former husband had engaged to resolve the financial issues surrounding their divorce.

Interestingly the couple only resorted to using an arbitrator because they felt let down by the court system. The first date they had for their case was postponed because of a court backlog and the second date was cancelled because the judge was ill. In the face of continuing pressure on court time and consequent delays in the family court system it’s clear resorting to private, alternative  ways to sort out finances following divorce is becoming more common.

The wife argued that the arbitrator had made fundamental errors in reaching his decision and had applied the law unfairly. She also believed her husband had adopted a ‘cavalier’ approach to disclosure of his assets and that his credibility had not been properly challenged.

The judge’s refused to reopen the arbitration agreement, saying that the decision to sign up to arbitration was similar to the decision to sign a pre nuptial agreement. It should only be reviewed if there are compelling reasons to do so. This decision demonstrates the binding nature of arbitration and the courts’ extreme reluctance to interfere with an arbitration agreement.

 

Comment

There are many advantages to settling financial and other issues out of court. But as the case of BC v BG shows, arbitration in particular should not be entered into lightly. The couple in this case may have been influenced by court delays to agree to arbitration. But these delays are commonplace now. Signing an arbitration agreement to speed up a divorce is nothing out of the ordinary. It was certainly simply not sufficient grounds to reopen the agreement. Quoting an earlier case the judge was adamant that factors that would lead to reopening an arbitrator’s award are ‘exceptional’ – the bar is set high.

For advice on any aspect of financial settlements call us on + 44 (0)20 7430 8470 or contact us online.

 

Can I Challenge The Arbitrator’s Decision On My Divorce?

Date: June 11th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Arbitration is one way to resolve the financial issues around your divorce without involving a judge. It has many advantages – it’s usually a quicker way to resolve contentious matters than going to court. And it can often be a cheaper route to finalising a financial agreement. But it’s also worth highlighting one of… Read the full article

Why Pensions Matter More Than Ever In High Net Worth Divorce

Date: June 6th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  New data reported in the Financial Times makes interesting reading for anyone involved in divorce financial remedy proceedings. Particularly where matrimonial assets exceed £1 million.   Divorces Where Assets Exceed £1 Million Researchers combined analysis from the Office of National Statistics relating to wealth and assets with the projected number of divorces. They estimate… Read the full article

Are Prenups Still Binding?

Date: May 28th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Since 2010 and the case or Radmacher v Granatino the courts have generally accepted that a prenuptial agreement is binding, provided certain conditions are met. These requirements include for example that each party receives independent legal advice and that there is full disclosure by each side of their financial assets. For individuals wishing to… Read the full article

Choosing A Jurisdiction For Divorce: Pierburg v Pierburg

Date: May 8th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The phenomenon of divorce tourism is not ideal. It puts unwanted pressure on the courts here to adjudicate on lengthy jurisdiction battles in cases where there is often only a slight connection to the UK. But establishing that the courts in England and Wales have the power to decide financial matters can make a… Read the full article

Amazon Chief’s Divorce Delivers A Lesson On Financial Settlements

Date: April 29th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  When the world’s richest man gets divorced the media is bound to be interested. And when Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and wife Mackenzie announced their intention to split in January 2019 it was against a background of salacious tabloid stories about what had led to the break up of the 25-year marriage. Given the… Read the full article

No-Fault Divorce Is On The Way: What About Financial Settlement Rules?

Date: April 16th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Campaign groups like Resolution, as well as many family lawyers like Brookman Solicitors in London have welcomed the announcement that the government intends to introduce a form of no-fault divorce “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Ending the need to blame one party in a divorce is a subject we’ve discussed before on this… Read the full article

Divorce And Pet Custody

Date: February 21st, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Bucking the trend for sluggish Christmas sales on the high street a leading chain of pet stores this week announced bumper profits.  A director explained that the company’s success was in large part down to the fact that people now treat their pets as true family members. They are prepared to spend considerable sums… Read the full article

The Facts About Prenups

Date: February 13th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The impending divorce of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has once again shone a spotlight on prenuptial agreements. Some reports suggest the world’s richest man and his estranged wife MacKenzie Bezos did not have one in place. Given the vast amount of money and assets at stake in this divorce, the lack of a prenup… Read the full article

New Year: Time To Take Stock?

Date: January 25th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  January will soon be behind us. And with it what now seems to be an annual fixture – ‘divorce day’. If you didn’t know, that’s the first working Monday after Christmas. According to some lawyers and many media outlets, it is when there is a notable spike in divorce enquiries. This year, we’ve noticed… Read the full article

What Now For No-Fault Divorce?

Date: October 10th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Back in June 2018 we wrote about no-fault divorce and the possible impact the case of Owens v Owens might have on the current system of divorce in England and Wales. In June the Supreme Court was still considering the merits of Mrs. Owens’ claim that she was ‘locked’ in a 37-year marriage. The… Read the full article


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Brookman Solicitors

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Wim Jansen 24/06/2020

I contacted Brookman to ask for information regarding the validity of an international divorce court ruling. They were very quick in providing me with the right information. When I had another question a few months later around children matters I phoned them again and after taking some background information and contact details they booked me in for a free telephone consultation with 1 of their partners Talitha Brookman. She spent half an hour of her time explaining to me what I could expect and provided legal advice. All was free of charge. I would not hesitate to contact them again should any matter become more formal and have to go through court. The service has been quick, professional and very friendly.

Rebecca Brown 01/06/2020

Highly recommend this firm. Having searched around different firms for advice for some time, I had a free consultation with Henry Brookman. He was incredibly knowledgeable about my complex situation, gave straightforward advice and empowered me to understand exactly how I need to proceed.

Nik Carter 10/05/2020

I recently had a free initial consultation with Henry Brookman via video conference. He was considered and meticulous in his approach and gave me well thought through advice. He followed this up with a letter in writing summarising the advice he gave me. I would thoroughly recommend his services to anyone looking for legal representation in a divorce.

Sarah Jones 02/05/2020

Henry was extremely helpful and pleasant to speak with. He provided comprehensive advice in a matter of hours and responded promptly to any queries I had. I would highly recommend speaking with him.

Shazan Awam 19/04/2020

Very helpful and thorough advice. Highly Recommend!