The current Covid-19 situation across the UK is making it difficult for some child arrangements orders to be put into effect, specifically where the child is to spend time with the other parent in another household. The parent with whom the child is ordinarily resident may have concerns about the transmission of the virus and decide that the child should not visit the other parent.
There is nothing stopping the continued operation of child arrangement orders, and they can continue on as normal with the child moving between households. Ideally, both parties should agree to any temporary change to any arrangements, and resume using the normal order at the end of the crisis. If a parent unilaterally decides not to allow any visits, court guidance has suggested that this decision may be tested after the event and a judge will decide whether the parent who stopped the visits acted reasonably in all the circumstances.
Court time is scarce now and will be scarce for some time to come as a backlog of cases builds up, meaning that hearings to determine contact with children in dispute will take a long time before they come before the courts. Arbitration is a process where a qualified arbitrator will consider the issues in dispute and quite quickly come to a decision based on the facts in the case. This can be a better process where there are limited issues between two parties including where the child will live, contact and upbringing arrangements.
Is it legally binding?
The resulting decision made by the arbitrator is legally binding in the same way as a court-ordered decision but needs to be submitted to a court and be approved by a judge before it has the same force as an order. It is unusual for arbitrated decisions not to be upheld by a judge.
Benefits of arbitration
Arbitration in the current circumstances will be quicker, and cheaper than listing the dispute for a court hearing. Provided both parties agree to use arbitration to solve their disagreement, it is an effective and timely solution to simple disputes.
How to start the process
Speak to one of the Farnfields’ family team on 01747 825432 who will advise you on the suitability of your dispute for arbitration, the possible costs and the timeframe, and arrange and set up the arbitration if it is appropriate / agreed by both parties. Arbitration can often be suitable for remote technology such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Skype rather than gathering in a central location.