Skip to content

If you potentially have a complex property settlement dispute, family law arbitration might be the answer.

Talk to us at Mediations Australia to find out if arbitration may suit your circumstance.

Family law arbitration is a dispute resolution practice for property matters that shares similar characteristics as a family law court, but offers more agility and does not have the significant waiting periods of the court system.

What is attractive to people who choose arbitration is that collectively with their lawyers, they’re able to custom design the process to suit the circumstances of each dispute.

The arbitration process parallels a court process in that you and your ex-partner through your lawyers (most times a Barrister instructed by a Solicitor) present arguments and evidence to a dispute resolution practitioner (the arbitrator) who makes a determination. The decision by the Arbitrator is final and legally binding.

Why Choose
Mediations Australia
to Help You

What types of matters suit arbitration?

Because arbitration is closely aligned to the court process, arbitration typically suits family law property settlement disputes of substantial complexity. However, if you’re unsure as to whether or not arbitration will suit your specific circumstance, simply talk to us at Mediations Australia.

What are the benefits of family law arbitration?

  • Selection of the Arbitrator by you and your ex-partner
  • The benefits of consistency in having a single arbitrator (as opposed to litigation when you have no control over who will preside over your matter)
  • Time-efficient compared to Court (court delays can be up to 3.5 years)
  • Flexibility with respect to time and location
  • Agility in terms of agreed rules of evidence to be used.
  • Costs usually will be significantly cheaper than litigation
  • Ability to use Mediation to define and narrow the issues to allow the arbitration to focus.


What are the disadvantages of arbitration?

  • Costs can escalate if the matter becomes lengthy or grows in its complexity
  • Right of Appeal (given that arbitration isn’t a court) is limited.


How can Mediations Australia help?

At Mediations Australia, we have taken the guesswork out of finding suitably qualified and experienced arbitrators. This is particularly important given the role they will play should you choose this path of resolving your family law property dispute.

Family Law Arbitration

Family law arbitration in Australia has emerged as an increasingly popular alternative dispute resolution method for resolving family law disputes, including those related to property settlement, spousal maintenance, and parenting arrangements. This process offers parties an opportunity to resolve their disputes outside of the traditional court system, providing greater flexibility, privacy, and control over the outcome.

Introduction to Family Law Arbitration

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where the parties involved in a dispute agree to have their case heard and decided by an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision, referred to as an award, is legally binding and enforceable, much like a court order.

In the context of family law, arbitration can be used to resolve a wide range of issues, including:

– Property division and financial matters
– Spousal maintenance and child support
– Parenting arrangements and child custody
– Matters related to de facto relationships and same-sex couples

The process of family law arbitration is governed by the Family Law Act 1975 and the relevant state or territory legislation, ensuring that it operates within the established legal framework.

Benefits of Family Law Arbitration

Family law arbitration offers several advantages over traditional court proceedings, making it an attractive option for many separating or divorcing couples. Some of the key benefits include:

a. Privacy and Confidentiality

Arbitration proceedings are conducted in private, away from the public eye, ensuring that sensitive family matters remain confidential. This can be particularly important for high-profile individuals or those who value their privacy.

b. Cost-Effectiveness

Arbitration is generally less expensive than court litigation, as the process is typically faster and more streamlined. This can result in significant cost savings for the parties involved.

c. Flexibility and Control

Arbitration allows parties to have greater control over the process, including the scheduling of hearings, the selection of the arbitrator, and the procedural rules to be followed. This flexibility can facilitate a more tailored approach to resolving their specific disputes.

d. Specialized Expertise

Parties can choose an arbitrator with specialized knowledge and expertise in family law matters, ensuring that their case is heard by someone with a deep understanding of the relevant laws and principles.

e. Finality and Enforceability

Arbitration awards are legally binding and enforceable, providing certainty and finality to the dispute resolution process. This can help parties move forward with their lives more quickly and with greater clarity.

The Arbitration Process

The family law arbitration process in Australia typically involves the following steps:

a. Arbitration Agreement

The parties must enter into an arbitration agreement, which outlines the scope of the issues to be arbitrated, the procedural rules to be followed, and the appointment of the arbitrator.

b. Selection of the Arbitrator

The parties can either agree on a suitable arbitrator or seek assistance from an arbitration organization, such as the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia (IAMA), to appoint an appropriate arbitrator.

c. Preliminary Matters

Before the substantive arbitration proceedings commence, the arbitrator may hold preliminary meetings or conferences to address procedural matters, such as the exchange of documents, setting timelines, and establishing the rules for the arbitration.

d. Evidentiary Hearings

During the evidentiary hearings, the parties present their evidence, including witness testimony and documentary evidence, to support their respective positions. The arbitrator will hear and consider the evidence presented by both sides.

e. Arbitration Award

After considering the evidence and submissions, the arbitrator will issue a written award, which sets out the final decision on the disputed issues. The award is legally binding and enforceable, subject to limited grounds for challenge or appeal.

Arbitration and the Family Court

While family law arbitration provides an alternative to court proceedings, it is important to note that the Family Court of Australia retains its jurisdiction and oversight over family law matters. Parties may still need to seek court orders or approvals in certain circumstances, such as:

a. Consent Orders

If the parties reach an agreement through arbitration, they may need to obtain consent orders from the Family Court to formalize the agreement and make it legally enforceable.

b. Challenges to the Arbitration Award

In limited circumstances, a party may be able to challenge the arbitration award in court on specific grounds, such as procedural irregularities or misconduct by the arbitrator.

c. Parenting Orders

While arbitration can be used to resolve parenting disputes, the Family Court retains the ultimate authority to make parenting orders, particularly in cases involving serious issues like child abuse or family violence.

Choosing an Arbitrator

The selection of the arbitrator is a crucial aspect of the family law arbitration process. Parties should consider the following factors when choosing an arbitrator:

a. Qualifications and Experience

It is essential to choose an arbitrator with relevant qualifications and extensive experience in family law matters. Many arbitrators are former judges or senior legal practitioners with specialized knowledge in this area.

b. Impartiality and Neutrality

The arbitrator must be impartial and free from any conflicts of interest or bias toward either party. This ensures a fair and objective decision-making process.

c. Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Effective communication and interpersonal skills are important qualities for an arbitrator, as they may need to manage complex family dynamics and facilitate productive discussions between the parties.

d. Availability and Timelines

Parties should consider the arbitrator’s availability and ability to conduct the arbitration within the desired timelines, ensuring an efficient and timely resolution of the dispute.

Enforceability and Challenges

Family law arbitration awards are legally binding and enforceable in Australia, subject to limited grounds for challenge or appeal. The grounds for challenging an arbitration award are generally narrow and include:

a. Procedural Irregularities

If there were significant irregularities in the arbitration process that affected the fairness or integrity of the proceedings, a party may be able to challenge the award.

b. Misconduct by the Arbitrator

If the arbitrator engaged in misconduct, such as bias or failure to follow the agreed-upon procedures, the award may be subject to challenge.

c. Exceeding Jurisdiction

If the arbitrator made decisions or issued orders that exceeded the scope of the arbitration agreement or their jurisdiction, the award may be challenged.

It is important to note that the grounds for challenging an arbitration award are narrow and that courts generally respect the finality of arbitration awards.

Family law arbitration in Australia offers an alternative and effective means of resolving family law disputes, providing parties with greater privacy, flexibility, and control over the process. By choosing arbitration, separating or divorcing couples can benefit from the specialized expertise of an impartial arbitrator, cost-effective proceedings, and legally binding and enforceable outcomes.

While arbitration is not a substitute for the Family Court’s jurisdiction, it can be an attractive option for those seeking a more tailored and efficient resolution to their family law disputes. As with any legal process, it is crucial for parties to seek professional advice and guidance from experienced family law practitioners to ensure that their rights and interests are protected throughout the arbitration process.

Get Help from Mediations Australia

Mediation Resources

Get Help from Mediations Australia