Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have agreed to settle their divorce in a private forum, using a private judge.
You may wonder whether this is something that is available in England and what the advantages and disadvantages of settling a divorce in private may be.
In England such private forum is available and we refer to it as arbitration. You and your ex-partner appoint an arbitrator. Then after a hearing the arbitrator will make a decision that will be binding upon you and your ex-partner.
The Advantages of Arbitration:
- Confidentiality – both parties enter into an agreement to keep all documentation and the outcome confidential. This can benefit those who wish to keep their case out of the media;
- Speed – the issues can be much quicker. The hearing or hearings can be set at a date that suit both of you and the arbitrator - this can be much sooner than the usual three to four month waiting list at the court;
- Flexibility – the date, time and venue are chosen by you and your ex-partner. Unlike with the court where you have no choice as to the date, time or venue. A more relaxed setting can be chosen than a Court room, reducing the stress of the process;
- Choice of Expert – you choose your own expert who may be a barrister, judge, or a solicitor (who is a registered arbitrator). This can mean that you can chose an expert in your area of law;
- Paper Decision – you can opt to have your case decided on paper without the need to attend a hearing where a written decision can be provided;
- Specific Issue – unlike with litigation you can ask a judge to decide on one specific issue, not the whole case. For example, if you agree on all the finances save for the division of the pension you can ask for the arbitrator to decide on this single issue.
The Disadvantages of Arbitration:
- Cost – unlike with a judge and a court room, you have to pay for the arbitrator and sometimes the use of venue, depending where it is;
- Third Parties – if evidence is required from a third party, such as a new partner, the bank or an employer, they cannot be forced to provide documents to aid the process. The arbitrator has no power over third parties;
- Hidden Assets – without Court Orders for disclosure if you believe your ex-partner is not providing full disclosure your case may not be suitable for this process.
What Family Arbitration Can be Used For:
- Divorce financial claims;
- Civil partnership dissolution and financial claims;
- Child Maintenance;
- Property ownership disputes between unmarried couples.
If you are interested in finding out more or seeking advice as to whether your case is suitable for arbitration contact the family lawyers at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll get back to you.
Sarah Jane Lenihan is a family lawyer with expertise in divorce, separation and children matters.