In this article, I argue for caution in embracing family arbitration as a new form of private ordering for resolving parties’ financial disputes. I explain that family arbitration may be more successful than other forms of private ordering and final court hearings in enabling certain types of parties to resolve certain types of disputes. I consider why family arbitration may not become numerically significant despite its potential benefits, but may be much more important in normative terms. Lawyer-led negotiations remain the most common form of out-of-court resolution and constitute the de facto default form of bargaining in the shadow of the normative regime framed by ss 23–25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Together with the transformation in approach to nuptial agreements, family arbitration may mark a normative shift towards autonomy and private ordering. I question whether this is a desirable step for family law, at least before we have resolved the underlying policy debate.

Arbitration in financial dispute resolution: the final step to reconstructing the default(s) and exception(s)?

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