March 17th, 2017
I have recently completed my first Child Arbitration. We chose Arbitration because the issue that we needed to be determined had a very specific time pressure, which meant that the case needed to be completed within a very short time frame as we had an statutory deadline.
In our local Court, which I understand is better than most, you typically wait two or three weeks for your application to be returned, to find that it has then been listed six weeks after that date for your First Directions. At that First Directions the matter is set down for a further hearing, typically two to three months after that date, and if an agreement is not reached a final hearing somewhere in the region of three to four months after that date is listed. This timeframe slips occasionally, the most distressing of which being when it slips because you lose your listing because Public Law takes priority and you then go to the back again.
When acting for private clients, the stress of their first day at Court is always intensified by the shock of the queue that they find themselves in, given the high fees they are paying you for this service. All too frequently, they then go before a Judge who has not read the application because of time pressures imposed on them or the fact that the file has not yet been sent up to them. Agreements are reached sometimes because of the length of time that you stand around waiting to go into Court, rather than the actual process.
So why is Child Arbitration better? Well having just completed my first Child Arbitration, I will take you through the timetable that we followed in contrast to the above. We agreed an Arbitrator between us, who was Alex Verdan QC at 4 Paper Buildings. We liaised with Alex’s clerk to set up a telephone conference between Advocates only. This took approximately 30 minutes on the telephone. We had a very constructive discussion about what was needed in the case and how we should proceed. The matter was then listed for a determination, approximately 2½ weeks after we had had the discussion (as Christmas was in between!).
The determination took place at the time and date that had been arranged. The Arbitrator had read everything and we received the determination the day after.
From start to finish, the whole process was completed in less than a month. The cost to the client was less than in the process that I have outlined above. The Arbitrator needed to be paid but the legal fees were less because all the time was spent productively. Both parties still gave evidence and were cross examined in the same way that they would have been in the Court process, so there was an acceptance that they had been through a fair process and in fact after hearing evidence in the morning, agreements were reached on some issues before the parties resumed after lunch.
The client’s satisfaction in relation to the process was high. In contrast to the Court system (where client’s sometimes find it hard to accept that they have paid such a lot of money, to sit around the Magistrates Court with those waiting to go in on criminal matters) the Arbitration took place in a very conference room in Chambers.
Looking at the situation objectively you would have to ask why there are so few cases arbitrating? I think it is good old fashioned fear of the unknown. As lawyers we know the court system and rules and there is a comfort in familiarity but are we really acting in our clients best interest if we let this professional caution (as we like to look like we know what we are talking about!) prevent our clients being fully advised and encouraged as to their options?
Loraine is a Director of Hawkins Family Law specifically recommended by The Legal 500 as a specialist who “fights her clients’ corner, but knows when it is in a client’s interests to settle.” Loraine has over 20 years experience in family law and has always specialised in this area. In recent years Loraine has spent the majority of her time acting for clients in relation to financial matters following relationship breakdowns, particularly more complex cases involving trust company assets or pensions. She also deals with complex children matters such as removal from jurisdiction, protracted and difficult child arrangement orders.
Loraine is actively involved in Resolution both nationally and regionally to promote good family law practice. She is a Resolution accredited specialist and trained as a Collaborative lawyer in 2005. Since then she has concluded many successful collaborative cases and is now also trained as a Mediator. She established the Milton Keynes Regional Group of Resolution and still chairs that group as well as being a member of the Collaborative Pod.
Trained at Pictons in Milton Keynes. Qualified in 1996. Head of Department at both Fennemores and Matthew Arnold & Baldwin in Milton Keynes. Loraine joined Hawkins Family Law in 2009 and is now a Director and works as part of the team that The Legal 500 classes as “exemplary”.
Resolution, Milton Keynes Collaborative pod, Milton Keynes Resolution (Chairman).
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Loraine has written articles for magazines and papers including the New Law Journal, the Review and local and national press. She also talked on Local radio giving commentary on legal developments.
Please contact Loraine here at Hawkins Family Law on email@example.com
Hawkins Family Law fields 'a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level'. Managing director and team head Jo Hawkins provides 'clear and accurate advice and moral support through often testing times for her clients; she focuses on deriving the best long-term outcome for her client and other parties'. The practice has particular strength financial matters, including divorce and ToLATA proceedings. Other key figures include Loraine Davenport, who has strong collaborative law expertise and handles complex children cases and high-net-worth ancillary relief matters; Annabel Hayward, who focuses on complex financial provision and co-habitation matters; and Stacey St Clair.
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