A recent report in The Times revealed that more divorcing couples in the UK are paying for a private judge to speed up the divorce process. Using a private judge is often thought to be an ‘American thing’ but you can use a private judge in the UK. However, they are called family arbitrators in the UK.
What is a private judge/family arbitrator?
A family arbitrator is often an experienced lawyer or retired judge who is specifically qualified to make decisions in a similar way to a family court judge. For example, they can make decisions on how finances and assets should be divided following a divorce.
Arbitration in family cases has been available since 2012, but it’s not often utilised. However, with family courts experiencing huge backlogs, more separating couples are turning to a family arbitrator to resolve disputes.
What are the advantages of a private judge/family arbitrator?
1. Choose your family arbitrator
One of the key advantages is that separating couples, along with their family lawyers, can choose the family arbitrator they want to use. In the family courts, couples don’t know which judge will deal with their case and could face several judges throughout the process.
2. Family arbitration can be quicker
Separating couples can see an arbitrator when they are ready, rather than having to wait for a judge and a court date to become available in the family court. Those who hire a private judge tend to comment on how convenient it is, especially if they are involved in a case that could take multiple days to resolve.
3. A family arbitrator can decide on discrete issues
If a couple has gone through family mediation and agrees on most things, but there is an issue that remains unresolved, a family arbitrator can be asked to make a decision on that issue. This helps separating couples to avoid the complete court process, saving them time and any further distress.
Is there a downside to using a family arbitrator/private judge?
Using a private judge can be expensive. Couples will have to consider the cost of the arbitrator, plus additional legal costs. However, for those wanting to avoid lengthy waits to get their case resolved in the family courts, arbitration could be the ideal solution.
Why has the uptake on family arbitration been slow?
Firstly, not many people in the UK are aware of family arbitration as it’s a relatively ‘new’ thing. Those that do know have said that cost is an issue.
Learn more about family arbitration
Holland Family Law is a member of Resolution, which provides some great information on arbitration.
If you want advice on using a family arbitrator, you can reach out to the professional and experienced team here at Holland Family Law. We offer a 30-minute consultation, which gives you the opportunity to tell us about your situation and find a solution that helps you move forward.