Is there a cheaper way to settle financial disputes during divorce proceedings?
There is an adage that says if something is quick it cannot be cheaper or better and if something is cheaper it cannot be better or quicker. But one of our recent cases has got us thinking that arbitration might be the quicker, cheaper and better route to reaching a financial agreement.
In April the client in our case decided to go to arbitration instead of issuing court proceedings and in August a successful day's arbitration was held. In just five months, we had achieved what can sometimes take up to a year to achieve through a court system which continues to be stretched to its limits.
The first step was to jointly identify and instruct an arbitrator. Selecting your arbitrator allows you to ensure that a family law specialist is overseeing your case, which is a key benefit to the arbitration process and a guarantee that cannot be relied upon when going through the court. A directions hearing was set at a time convenient to all parties and was held by telephone. This limited the costs incurred by both parties as there was no travel time, nor any waiting around at court.
The arrangements for the arbitration were excellent with the arbitration having been set for a date, time and venue that was convenient for all. Something must also be said for the environment in which the arbitration occurred. There were dedicated rooms for each party with refreshments arranged throughout, all of which helped to create a positive and productive setting and also put the client at ease.
By resolving this matter through arbitration, the client receives the benefit of having a decision maker who has managed the process throughout and was truly informed about the case. This continuity is not to be underrated as it means less wasted costs and an adjudicator who has a detailed knowledge of your case.
Whilst there is an additional cost in the form of the arbitrator's fees, the increased speed and efficiency which results from the arbitration process more than outweighs the cost. From start to finish the process took five months, saving over six months of legal action and reducing the stress, time and inconvenience to the client. It is certainly worth considering for a lot of cases.
Christine Plews was instructed in the matter of DB v DLJ  EWHC324 which further developed the area of arbitration in the family justice arena.