Guest blog: Anthony Kirk QC on Arbitration in Children Cases

8 February 2017

No fewer than 50 delegates attended a seminar organised by the Bar Council ADR Panel on Wednesday 26 October 2016 keen to learn more about this recent development in the field of family dispute resolution services.

The evening commenced with a short introduction by The President of The Family Division, Sir James Munby, who spoke of the overall benefits of arbitration in private law children cases and strong judicial support for the scheme.

Introduced in July 2016 under the auspices of the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) it provides a simple mechanism for those who might be minded to litigate instead to appoint an arbitrator of their choice to deliver a binding written determination on the issues that have arisen.  Most usually they will be issues concerning future living arrangements on separation or divorce, visiting arrangements, education and holidays - although only at present within the jurisdiction, that being seen by many as something of a lacuna. The scheme goes hand in hand with a similar one dealing with financial arrangements on separation or divorce introduced in March 2012.

Delegates heard from Suzanne Kingston of Withers Worldwide LLP and Janet Bazley QC of 1 Garden Court (who have spearheaded the arbitration training for family lawyers) about the finer details of the scheme and qualification to undertake the training. 

This was followed by presentations from HH John Altman (formerly Senior Designated Family Judge for London) and William Tyler QC of 36 Family, both qualified mediators, about the training experience and the contrast between arbitration and other forms of ADR in children cases.  The evening concluded with a talk from Karin Walker, Chair of "Resolution" DR Committee on engaging the client in the process.  The evening was expertly moderated by Philip Marshall QC, Chairman of the FLBA.

Will the scheme take off? It has had quite a slow start, but then again so did financial arbitration back in 2012. Only time will tell.

Those interested in finding out more should visit the IFLA website at ifla.org.uk 

Anthony Kirk QC is a barrister at 1 King's Bench Walk and a member of the Bar Council ADR Panel