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Private divorces

The Times examines the launch of an Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, which will enable couples to choose their own judge or arbitrator to obtain a legally binding decision. About 300 former judges and family lawyers have signed up for training and 35 have already qualified to adjudicate on divorce settlements, financial provision for children, property and inheritance issues through arbitration. James Stewart, family partner with Manches, comments: “It is out of the court arena and in private, which is attractive for high profile celebrity clients.” Suzanne Kingston, partner at Withers, adds: “There are numerous benefits of arbitration. At the moment our court system is overwhelmed. It often takes a year to 18 months for a case to come to trial. By contrast, it can be established in advance whether a possible arbitrator is available and able to deal with the case quickly. The timetable for concluding the case would then be in the hands of the parties and this will be a significant advantage.” Grant Howell, partner at Charles Russell LLP as well as a family arbitrator, said: “Until now, unless agreement could be reached on every aspect, people had no choice other than to go through contested court proceedings. Now they can agree to arbitrate and deal with the matter more quickly, tailoring the arbitration to only those points that are in dispute.” Fiona Reed, partner at Russell-Cooke, points out that the courts will benefit from relief of the pressure on court time and worsening delays. The Times also profiles Debrett’s Guide to Civilised Separation in association with Mischon de Reya. Meanwhile, Nicola Walker, partner at Irwin Mitchell, explains that new rules on contact in divorce cases, to allow children to spend more time with both parents, may only serve to increase the number of legal battles between parents. She suggests a better approach would be to offer more support to parents through mediation.

The Times, Page: 3

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