Mediation or Arbitration: What’s best for my divorce?

12 Apr 2022 | Lisa Pepper
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Is arbitration or mediation better in a divorce?

Few divorcing couples want to end up in court, which is why non-court dispute resolution processes such as mediation and arbitration are faster and more effective alternatives for resolving financial and other matters.

Our specialist divorce lawyers know only too well the financial and emotional costs to clients of having to go to court. We have experienced mediators in our team – and a qualified arbitrator – each skilled in assisting couples as they commence non-adversarial ways to resolve outstanding issues. 

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where the mediator (a neutral third party) helps the parties identify the issues in dispute, explore how they might be resolved and, crucially, help them arrive at a mutual agreement. 

The mediator effectively facilitates an environment in which the couple can comfortably discuss out key issues relating to the finances and any children in order to arrive at an agreement. Both parties need separate legal representation, and those solicitors will draft a Financial Remedy Order if a financial settlement on divorce is achieved.

How an agreement on child arrangements is to be recorded will be discussed with you.

There’s no obligation to continue with the process if, for instance, the environment becomes acrimonious – either party can withdraw from the mediation process at any time.

It’s worth bearing in mind that before you make any application to court for proceedings relating to children or for financial remedies, you must attend a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM). 

The purpose is to help you determine if there are alternative ways to resolve the issues outside of court, so the MIAM is always a good introduction to what mediation is about. 

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is more formal than mediation. It can be an effective option when you cannot reach an agreement on key issues, but you’re keen to avoid expensive and time-consuming court action. 

The parties agree to the appointment of an independent arbitrator who will hear the dispute in private and make a final decision (the award). 

A key benefit of arbitration is that it can be concluded in a matter of days or weeks, compared to litigation which can take years. Importantly, an arbitral award can be enforced both in the UK and abroad if that becomes necessary. 

The process is also more flexible than litigation, with the parties able to have a say in choosing the arbitrator and the procedures which could be adopted.

What’s the difference between mediation and arbitration?

Arbitration is a more formal process than mediation and will involve an Arbitrator’s fee, as well as the lawyer’s fees, for representing you and preparing your case, but it is still cheaper than going to court. 

A key difference between the two is that the outcome of mediation is not binding on the parties, whereas the decision of an arbitrator is. 

There’s also no guarantee that mediation will lead to an agreement, so if you are after a level of certainty about the outcome – perhaps within a relatively short timeframe – we may advise you to consider going down the arbitration route.

Will mediation or arbitration be best for me?

The question of divorce arbitration vs mediation depends on your individual circumstances. For couples already embroiled in conflict or where the parties’ positions are so opposed that mediation is unsuitable – arbitration could be the most effective way forward.

How we can help

Our specialist divorce lawyers, which includes expert family mediators, will consider your situation and advise you on the most suitable forum to help you resolve the issues in a quick and cost-effective way. 

Contact our leading divorce lawyer Lisa Pepper for more information on mediation and arbitration, or complete an online enquiry form.

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