Increasing numbers of potential family law litigants are turning to alternative means of dispute resolution, often driven by a desire to avoid the time and cost involved in proceeding through the court system.

Arbitration is one of these alternative methods, involving the selection of an arbitrator who has the opportunity to hear from the parties and then make a final decision regarding their dispute. An arbitrator’s decision is binding and can be upheld by a court if breached.

The Court of Appeal in Murphy v Murphy dealt with the appeal of an arbitrator’s award and held that, as the decision maker who has the opportunity to hear directly from the parties, an arbitrator’s decision is to be given significant deference. Situations where a court can overturn an arbitration award are few and far between. The court noted that deference is to be even more significant where the parties have carefully selected an arbitrator who is well-known for his or her family law expertise and experience.

The decision in Murphy confirms that parties should not enter into alternative dispute processes without understanding what the consequences are if a decision is made with which they are unhappy. Alternative methods can quickly become as expensive, if not more so, than litigation if disputes such as the one in Murphy arise.

If you are considering how best to resolve a family law issue, a family lawyer can lay out the various dispute resolution options, explain the pros and cons of each method and help you settle on the one that is the best fit for your family.

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