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Lord Wilson emphasises benefits of resolving family disputes outside of court

Lord Wilson heralds the advent of arbitration to determine family disputes

In a keynote address, delivered at a reception hosted by Collaborative Family Law, Lord Wilson of Culworth, a justice of the Supreme Court, has reiterated his commitment to finding alternative methods to court-based litigation for the resolution of disputes on relationship breakdown. 

Whilst emphasising the need for a well-functioning court system for the judicial determination of some disputes following the breakdown of a family relationship, Lord Wilson said that the vast majority of such disputes, whether the parties were married or not, are entirely capable of consensual settlement rather than adjudication. He added that it is vital that all cases which can be settled should be settled. 

Having extolled the advantages of settlement by mediation and collaborate law, Lord Wilson considered the possibility of the introduction of arbitration as a means to determine disputes in the family context. 

'There is yet a different area in which [Collaborative Family Law] considers that some parties might benefit from a further and more dramatic invasion into the territory of the judges.   I refer to arbitration, namely the imposition by a member of the Group of a result upon parties who have given their informed consent to be bound by it.   I have not previously encountered arbitration in the family field; but a few members of the Group propose to offer it as from next year.   I wish to understand more about the consequences which flow when a party, aggrieved by the arbitrator's determination, withholds consent to the court order, reflective of it, which is necessary for making a financial agreement watertight.   In principle, however, arbitration would be likely to avoid – or lessen – a number of the disadvantages attendant upon proceeding to court, in particular delay and publicity.   I am glad to learn that rigorous training, effected in conjunction with the Institute of Arbitrators, is a pre-requisite of a member's accreditation as an arbitrator.   For he will need to be as wise as the family judge whose outstanding judicial qualities are intended to have been identified in the course of the appointments system and who in many cases will have developed the art of wise decision-making by experience over the years.'

For the full text of Lord Wilson's speech, please click here.