Family Arbitration Explained

What is family arbitration?

Family arbitration is a form of private dispute resolution in which you and your ex-partner appoint a fair and impartial family arbitrator to resolve your dispute.

Family arbitration is an ideal approach for people who want to resolve a family dispute without the delay and expense of the court process. It allows you and your ex-partner to engage in a flexible process, with complete confidentiality, and the knowledge that a decision will be made.

The family arbitrator will produce a decision after hearing from each of you. They will act fairly and impartially, giving each of you the opportunity to put forward your views.

Family arbitration applies the law of England and Wales. It is different to other forms of non-court dispute resolution such as mediation and collaborative law in that you are guaranteed a decision which will be made for you.

Family arbitration can be used to help separating couples (whether married or not) following the breakdown of a relationship to settle disputes relating to:

  • Finance
  • Property
  • Child Maintenance

Family arbitration cannot be used for disputes relation to:

  • Child arrangement orders
  • Divorce

Why choose family arbitration?

The court process can be long, complicated and expensive. It can increase conflict and confrontation during an already distressing period.

Family arbitration provides a real alternative.


Family arbitration is likely to be a lot quicker than going to court and the same person will deal with the dispute from start to finish.


You can choose the venue and arrange meetings for dates and times that suit you.

You can choose your family arbitrator. This means that if you have specific requirements, you can find a family arbitrator with the specialist knowledge that will help resolve your unique dispute.


You can decide whether the process is document only, conducted via telephone, or by face-face meetings. Issues may be dealt with all at once, or one after the other.

You can decide whether you want the family arbitrator to look at the whole of a dispute or one part of it.


Family arbitration is essentially private. The media are not entitled to attend hearings, which are at venues you and your ex-partner agree. Only both of you, your representatives, the arbitrator, and any others agreed will be permitted to be there.

Legal advice

You can retain your own lawyer to advise you throughout the process. Beck Solicitors will help you in preparing all the documents needed. They will guide you in the choice of arbitrator and, if needed, the choice of either a barrister, or a member of Beck Solicitors to represent you at the arbitration hearing.

How much does it cost?

Family arbitrator’s fees

You, your ex-partner, and the family arbitrator will agree the level of the family arbitrator’s fees at the start of the process. Fees are usually based on an hourly or daily rate, but may also be arranged on a fixed-fee basis. These costs will normally be shared between you and your ex-partner.

Venue hire

There may be costs involved in hiring a venue for any meetings scheduled as part of the process. These costs will normally be shared.

Independent legal advice fees

It is usually a good idea for both you and your ex-partner to take independent legal advice to help you through the process. Normally you and your ex-partner will each pay your own legal fees. At the outset Beck Solicitors will agree a fixed fee for each stage of the arbitration process, which will be simple, transparent and in writing.

Experts’ fees

You and your ex-partner might require experts as part of the process. Again, these costs will normally be shared.

How does it work?

Stage One: Preparation

Step 1

You and your ex-partner have a financial dispute that you wish to resolve without going to court.

You can use family arbitration to resolve the whole dispute, or one part of it.

Step 2

You both, with the help of your lawyers, choose a family arbitrator and establish his or her terms and availability.

Step 3

Together with your ex-partner you complete, sign and submit by post an Application for Family Arbitration (Form ARB1). This is where you outline details of the dispute you are seeking to resolve. By signing the ARB1 you both agree that you will be bound by the decision of the family arbitrator.

Step 4

The family arbitrator contacts Beck Solicitors to confirm the appointment and then sends out a formal letter of acceptance.

Stage Two: Family Arbitration Process

Step 5

The family arbitration process begins. How the process works is up to you, Beck Solicitors and the family arbitrator. It may be a document-only process, or include face-to-face and telephone meetings.

Two weeks before the arbitration meeting, Beck Solicitors can arrange a “round table” meeting to explore whether matters can be settled by you and your ex-partner. This will only be considered appropriate if you both express willingness to compromise and where it is believed there is a real prospect of mutual consent. Beck solicitors will conduct the meeting and the format can be flexible.

Stage Three: Conclusion

Step 6

If, at the round table meeting, a consensus has been reached the arbitrator will be informed and no arbitration fee for the final hearing is payable. Beck solicitors will prepare all the legal documents for you and your ex partner to sign , recording what has been agreed, and these will be sent to court for approval by the judge.


If no consensus has been agreed , the case goes forward to the Arbitration hearing for a decision to be made.

Step 7

The family arbitrator makes a decision. The decision is put in writing and delivered to you both. The decision will include written reasons.

This is much like a judgment or financial award made in court.

Step 8

Generally, both of you will take the family arbitrator’s decision to Beck Solicitors. By agreement, it can become a court order.

Step 9

You have a right to appeal if you think there has been a legal error or serious irregularity. Your lawyers can advise you on this.