27th Jul 2016

Children arbitration – another real life case study

By Gillian Bishop

In the latest of a series of blogs on children arbitration, director Gillian Bishop. who, along with her colleagues Felicity Shedden and James Pirrie, is a qualified children law arbitrator, examines how children arbitration can be used to address the relocation of a child.

“Rachel and Debbie had been in a civil partnership for 10 years but split up when Rachel formed a new same sex-relationship with Ronnie. Rachel and Debbie had one child together, a daughter Billie who is now 6. Rachel is Billie’s birth mother. Debbie has parental responsibility for Billie.

Rachel moved out of the family home to live with Ronnie 9 months ago taking Billie with her. To date Rachel and Debbie have had a reasonably civilised split and are sharing care of Billie who spends alternate weeks with Rachel and Debbie. Billie is a happy child who is doing well at her local primary school sited conveniently near where both Debbie and Rachel live. Billie calls Rachel “MaMa” and Debbie “MumMum”. Billie calls Ronnie by her name.

Ronnie’s employers are relocating their offices from Brighton to Bristol. Ronnie is keen to move because part of the reorganisation of the firm will mean a promotion for her. She has recently proposed to Rachel and they are planning a wedding as soon as the dissolution of Rachel’s civil partnership with Debbie has been finalised. Rachel’s wants to move with Ronnie and Billie to Bristol but she knows that this will disrupt the arrangements for Billie and the time Billie spends with Debbie. Debbie is very upset at the thought of Billie being so far away and believes that it would not be in Billie’s best interests to suddenly see much less of her.

Both Debbie and Rachel realise that the decision is not one on which they can easily compromise and despite exploring other options have been unable to find a solution that would work for them and for Billie. Neither want to go through a court process but equally they feel they need to get someone else to make the decision for them.

Their respective lawyers have advised that arbitration would be an option for the following reasons:

  1. Speed and convenience – the timetable and location can be fixed more quickly than a court application and at a time convenient to Debbie and Rachel. It is likely that the process will be much quicker than an equivalent court process.
  2. Arbitrations are conducted in neutral venues convenient to the parties.
  3. Debbie and Rachel can choose the arbitrator, usually with many years of experience in the field.
  4. Arbitrations are dealt with in private away from the glare of the media which can be of particular relevance to some people.
  5. The voice of the child, in this case Billie, can be heard by the instruction of an Independent Social Worker or, when appropriate, the appointment of an educational psychologist.
  6. The welfare check list applied to children cases in the court is applied in the same way in arbitration to ensure that the welfare of the child is paramount in the decision making process.
  7. The arbitrator’s decision is binding and can, if necessary be converted to a court order.”

If the matters described in this blog have resonated with you and you would like to understand more about the arbitration children scheme, please contact our children law arbitrators Gillian Bishop, James Pirrie or Felicity Shedden on 020 7420 5000 or by email at hello@flip.co.uk. If the matter in dispute involves property or financial matters, we also offer three arbitrators qualified in this area too – James Pirrie, Felicity Shedden and Bradley Williams.

For more information read about arbitration here or take a look at our arbitration brochure.