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Arbitration in Children Cases

Arbitrations help parties to resolve family disputes about children as well as finances following a split without having to go to court. Arbitration can be used to resolve the whole dispute or just a part of it.

There are two schemes: The Financial Scheme and the Children Scheme. The Rules for the Children Scheme can be found here.


The IFLA Children Scheme can be used to resolve a wide range of disputes and issues including:

  • Any issue between parents or holders of parental responsibility or who have a sufficient interest in a child’s present or future welfare
  • Any issue which would be encapsulated in a Child Arrangements Order
  • Contact
  • Education
  • Routine but not life-changing or life-threatening medical treatment

The IFLA Children Scheme does not apply in cases involving:

  • The return of a child from another jurisdiction
  • The removal of a child from this jurisdiction whether permanently or temporarily (such as for a holiday)
  • Jurisdictions outside England and Wale
  • Life-changing or life-threatening medical treatment
  • Any dispute where a person under the age of 18 has parental responsibility for the child
  • Where a party to the arbitration lacks capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005
  1. If both parties agree to the process, an arbitrator is chosen subject to their availability and terms.
  2. Once an arbitrator is chosen, the parties complete, sign and send a completed Application for Family Arbitration Form - ARB1CS for children disputes relating to children to the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. The form will detail what’s to be resolved and agrees that each party will be bound by the arbitrator’s decision.
  3. The arbitrator will contact the parties agreeing to act.
  4. The arbitration can be conducted either face to face or solely based on documents, sometimes supported by phone discussions.
  5. If there is to be a final determining meeting of the parties, the arrangements, venue, date, documents to be used, experts etc are agreed and the arbitrator’s fee and other expenses are paid.
  6. After the meeting and/or document review, the arbitrator will make a decision, put that in writing, including reasons, and send that to the parties, similar to a Court order.
  7. This is then taken to Court by the parties and will by consent become a Court order.
  8. Either party can appeal if there has been a mistake in law or some serious irregularity. However, it is very rare that the Court will go behind the arbitrator’s decision.

Further guidance on the process both from a lawyer and lay client’s perspective can be found in the resources section.

Trinity Chambers

The Custom House
Newcastle upon Tyne


Find out more about Family and Children Arbitration

Get in touch for a free, no obligation discussion about how arbitration can be a quick, cost effective and confidential way of resolving disputes, including options to deal with cases remotely by video conference.