Conducting a family arbitration

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An arbitration is a legal proceeding and the arbitrator is like a judge. This means that the arbitrator must be capable of running a hearing with sufficient knowledge of the rules of procedure, evidence and legal rights and obligations. The arbitrator must maintain decorum, be impartial and give the parties a fair opportunity to present their cases.

Cases will probably involve evidence of income or employment, need for support, assets and liabilities, the needs of children at different developmental stages, the parents' capacity to care for them, and other related subjects.

The arbitrator should conduct the hearing in accordance with an agreement set out with the parties beforehand, or failing that, decide what procedure he or she will use to have evidence and arguments presented to him or her. The arbitrator should keep notes of the arguments and evidence, in order to assist when writing the decision and the reasons for it.

Arbitrators must be familiar with the Arbitration Act, 1991 , which sets out the legal framework for arbitrations. In addition, the Family Law Act contains some essential rules about family arbitrations.

The Child and Family Services Act (section 72) requires that an arbitrator (as well as other professionals) report any signs that a child has been abused or needs protection to the appropriate child welfare agency or to the police.

Any family arbitration involving children must be decided in the best interests of the children. The Children's Law Reform Act (section 24) outlines a number of factors that must be considered in making this decision.


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