The Children Arbitration Scheme was launched on Monday.  This means that it is now possible for couples to avoid court (and mediation) when attempting to resolve disputes concerning their children.  Unlike mediation arbitration is binding and it is a cheaper less unpleasant and more user friendly alternative to court.  It also works well for unrepresented couples who cannot afford to be represented by solicitors.
All qualified children arbitrators are listed on the IFLA website (Institute of Family Law Arbitrators) and most are willing to offer fixed fee packages.  Arbitrators are highly qualified lawyers with many years experience in family law.  You and your former partner can choose the arbitrator yourself or ask IFLA  choose an arbitrator for you.  You work with the arbitrator to decide on the best way of dealing with the dispute.  There are many options available and you have control over the process and the costs involved.  If you have a solicitor he or she works with the arbitrator through out the process.
Arbitration can also be used to help you decide on a single or discrete issue if mediation breaks down for any reason.  It may be that you have agreed on everything except how Christmas should be shared (for example) and the arbitrator can make this decision for you.
Arbitration is now available for disputes involving money and children.  The costs of Arbitration are usually shared equally.
Arbitrators are also available to assist you with an early neutral evaluation (ENE) of your case.  This is particularly helpful for unrepresented couples and can be used in children and money disputes.  Instead of a binding decision you can use one arbitrator to give you guidance on how to resolve your dispute.    The information that you provide the arbitrator is confidential and without prejudice which means it cannot be used against you in court at a later date.  The arbitrator’s guidance or ENE  is also confidential and without prejudice.  It is not binding and its purpose is to help you try and avoid court by having an indication of what type of order the court would be likely to make in your case.  If you accept the arbitrator’s guidance the arbitrator can then go on to make an award which will be binding and can be turned into a court order.   However you are not bound to accept the arbitrator’s guidance.  An early neutral evaluation can be used in all kinds of cases and in conjunction with court proceedings and mediation.