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Surge in ‘privatised’ divorces expected after landmark arbitration case

A “green light” has been given to divorce settlements by private arbitration after a recent ruling, according to a former Lord Chancellor.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton commented to The Times on a divorce settlement agreed by a couple privately under Jewish law. This divorce was endorsed by a High Court judge and Lord Falconer believes it will pave the way for many more ‘privatised’ divorces.

Lord Falconer said:

“This ruling gives the green light to divorce settlements by private arbitration. Until now there has been anxiety that decisions made in arbitrations could not be enforced. So couples did not know whether their agreements would be binding or not.”

He added:

“What this [latest ruling] shows is that — when the decision is reached in accordance with principles of English law — that courts will approve such awards. This opens the way to privatised divorce settlements.”

Lord Falconer is chairman of the board of the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. The institute last year set up a scheme to offer arbitration as an alternative way to resolve family disputes.

As well as being a family lawyer I am a qualified arbitrator. In fact I was among the first 35 solicitors, barristers and ex-judges to qualify as a family law arbitrator in February 2012. I am also a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and I would be delighted to assist in any cases where arbitration is required.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Anthony Glaister says:

    Marilyn – I wonder whether something akin to the Yorkshire Arbitration Scheme could be used where couples are in substantial agreement as to the terms – I say substantial as obviously if things like access and maintenance are hotly contested no arbitrator would want to fix a fee at say £1,500 without knowing the scope or intensity of what she or he would have to deal with. I am not a family practitioner so I may be naive as to how one could package relatively easy family arbitrations to make them more attractive to users. Also Med/Arb might be a useful add on – it is effectively already done in Employment Tribunals.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Anthony
      Id certainly be prepared to arbitrate on specific points for a fixed fee although I should point out the scheme does not cover child contact/residence issues. I agree it is a useful add on and thats one of its advantages because it would resolve points of difference very quickly without waiting for weeks to go to court.
      Best wishes

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