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Family lawyer explains why slashes to legal aid are inspiring alternative attitudes to UK divorces

High net worth couples are beginning to shun the traditional approach to divorce by turning to binding arbitration, as a more favourable alternative.

A recently-fashioned group of Family lawyers are advising that arbitration could prove to be an increasingly attractive option and not only for the wealthy; as it could also help those couples not eligible for legal funding.

The call comes as the strain on the family courts continues to increase and, many lawyers now believe that the government should seek to provide aid to ease the rising issue

The cuts to legal aid and the perceived cost of legal aid has created a torrent of hearings with litigants in person, which slows the system down considerably. An alternative is needed and arbitration may well bridge the gap between litigation and no legal support at all.

Two years ago, a scheme was launched which included 150 family arbitrators, solicitors, barristers and former family court judges. All of the members are qualified and authorised to offer family law arbitration and the process has already gained high-level legal backing. Both the High Court family judge Sir Nicholas Mostyn and family division president Sir James Munby have both strongly encouraged the use of arbitration.

The current system encourages divorcing couples to contemplate non-binding mediation, to allow arbitration for those people who, traditionally, would have qualified for legal aid.

Ultimately, arbitration is almost like having one’s own private court; whilst one cannot choose their own judge in family proceedings, with arbitration as long as all parties agree – the process can be conducted whenever and wherever, and with whoever the parties choose acting as arbitrator.

Leading Family and Divorce lawyer Zoe Bloom explains,

“As an active supporter of alternative dispute resolution methods, for me, arbitration is a fantastic addition to our offerings. We have offered it at Keystone, as an alternative to extremely complex cross jurisdictional litigation and also to much more simple specific issues resolution. There is a model and fee structure which can help many couples cut through very difficult and time consuming negotiations.

The biggest difficulty is finding other lawyers who will support the option and explain it clearly to their clients. Too often it is blocked for fear of losing fees. This can be improved by greater awareness and education to all family lawyers, including those at the top of their careers.”

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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