Procedural Summary

This is a guide to the 20 steps of a family arbitration. If you require further help or information, please contact one of our arbitrators. We ask you to do so on a joint basis if your query relates to a potential arbitration.

  • If you are involved in a family dispute and are considering arbitration under the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) financial and / or children schemes, first check that the dispute is covered by the relevant scheme (see Article 2 of both the IFLA Financial Arbitration Rules and the Children Arbitration Rules). If in doubt you can, on a joint basis, contact any of us for clarification.
  • To start the arbitration process, you each complete and sign either a Form ARB1FS (application for financial arbitration) or a Form ARB1CS (application for children arbitration), or both if the arbitration is to deal with issues of both sorts, requesting the appointment of an arbitrator. In the form you either ask for a named arbitrator or ask IFLA to select a suitable person from its panel. You submit the form to the IFLA administrator, preferably by email to, or by post to IFLA, 91-95 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0AX. IFLA may be contacted by telephone on 020 3841 0300. Before sending the ARB1 to IFLA, it is perfectly permissible for you to contact the proposed arbitrator, on a joint basis, to ascertain informally his or her willingness to accept the nomination, and availability. On receipt of the ARB1 IFLA contacts the named or selected arbitrator and invites him or her to become the appointed arbitrator.
  • The arbitrator or his or her clerk / office will contact you seeking your agreement to the terms of the appointment. Please note that all correspondence between the arbitrator and one party must be copied to the other party. Correspondence by email is encouraged.
  • Many arbitrators (including the members of FamilyArbitrator) offer a free of charge ‘no commitment’ meeting before the terms are signed. This meeting gives you the opportunity to meet the arbitrator, and enables the arbitrator to be satisfied that you understand the process and your own obligations under the arbitration agreement.
  • Once you and the arbitrator agree terms, the arbitration formally commences. The Financial Arbitration Rules and/or the Children Arbitration Rules and the Arbitration Act 1996 apply to the conduct of the arbitration.
  • In the ARB1 you both agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision (called an ‘award’ in financial disputes and a ‘determination’ in children disputes).
  • You also agree that you will not, while the arbitration is continuing, apply to court except in connection with the arbitration or to seek relief that is not available in the arbitration.
  • A key feature of arbitration is that the parties ‘own’ the process as much as possible. In some cases, especially those where the issues are narrow, the parties will have no difficulty in agreeing on a form of procedure prior to the arbitrator’s appointment. They can, for instance, decide whether they want the dispute to be determined on paper only, or following a hearing, and in the latter case whether with or without oral evidence. However, in many cases, particularly where the parties and /or their advisers are unfamiliar with the arbitration process, they may prefer to leave procedural issues to be decided by the arbitrator, in the light of their representations.
  • The procedure that is best for your arbitration will depend very much on the nature of your dispute. Both sets of rules offer alternative forms of procedure. These may be adapted to suit the circumstances of your case, or an entirely bespoke procedure may be adopted. The arbitrator has the widest possible discretion to adopt. procedures to suit the circumstances of your case. He or she will strive to manage the arbitration as quickly, efficiently and economically as possible.
  • Unless you have decided in advance which procedure will apply, the arbitrator will conduct a case management conference at the start of the arbitration, either by phone or in person, when procedural issues can be discussed and he or she will make a decision.
  • It is open to the arbitrator to decline to accept the appointment if he or she considers that the arbitration is unlikely to be effective using the procedure that the parties have chosen.
  • During the course of the arbitration any further decisions about procedure will be taken by the arbitrator after due consultation with the parties. If appropriate, this may be done by means of a conference call or by email.
  • If there is to be a final hearing it will take place at a date, time and venue agreed between you and the arbitrator.
  • The arbitrator’s award (the reasoned decision the arbitrator produces at the end of the process) or determination (which is the term used in a children arbitration) must be committed to writing and delivered promptly. The decision will include written reasons, like a court judgment, and will deal with costs. The arbitrator’s fee must be settled upon delivery of the award or determination.
  • There may be an avenue of appeal to court on a point of law, unless the parties have agreed to exclude this right. The parties can also invite the court to set aside the decision if there has been a serious irregularity which has resulted or may result in substantial injustice.
  • In financial remedy-type and children arbitrations, the ARB1 requires you if necessary to apply to court for a consent order reflecting the award or determination. Once a court order has been made it may be enforced in the usual way.
  • If the arbitration involves a purely civil claim (e.g. under TOLATA 1996) you can apply to a court for permission to enforce the award as though it were a court judgment or order, under section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996.
  • In certain circumstances the arbitrator may terminate the arbitration before it has been concluded.
  • The arbitration process and the arbitrator’s decision are entirely confidential, and disclosure is permitted only in prescribed circumstances. Media representatives are not admitted to any hearings.