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The launch of international family law arbitration

by David Hodson
Posted: 12 September 2017

A new and innovative scheme to help international families, which launched in September 2017, has had considerable praise and support from leading lawyers around the world. 

The International Family Law Arbitration Scheme (IFLAS) has been created to avoid long and expensive forum litigation and help couples work out where any family differences should be resolved by establishing with which country they have the closest connection.  

To access the scheme visit

This new initiative has two distinctive aspects. 

  • By using arbitration and a worldwide common law closest connection criteria, a couple can resolve differences more quickly, more cheaply and more satisfactorily.
  • It is fairer. Currently, when a couple has connections with more than one country there can be a dispute about which country will resolve any differences. The forum dispute is decided in, and by the law of, one of the two countries. This is perceived as an unfair advantage to one of the parties. Some countries around the world are perceived as more likely to say that proceedings should be in their own country. The scheme uses an arbitrator unconnected with either of the countries in the dispute and therefore perceived as far more neutral and fairer. 

Arbitrators are trained to adjudicate and resolve disputes. Many in the scheme are retired or part-time judges. All IFLAS arbitrators are experienced lawyers used to dealing with international family law disputes. 

Amongst the benefits of arbitration are that the parties can choose their own preferred arbitrator as appropriate for their dispute, have it undertaken very quickly, have flexibility in the way the matter is conducted including using technology instead of actual hearings, with a less adversarial approach and with the significant advantage of complete privacy and confidentiality. A number of countries now use arbitration in family matters. 

When trying to determine which country has the closest connection to the couple or the family, the arbitrator, in a similar manner to the law used in England and many countries around the world, considers all the circumstances and various connections.  

The scheme will initiate the arbitration process, including arranging an arbitrator as required. It will result in an arbitration decision. The parties would agree not to pursue any other court proceedings pending resolution of the arbitration and to abide by the outcome. It is anticipated that national court schemes will adjourn proceedings whilst the forum arbitration is underway. 

Crucial to the scheme is an online questionnaire, which is accessed via the IFLAS website, intended to elicit all the relevant facts for forum dispute. Created by leading practitioners, it will help the arbitrator resolve the closest connection. With the aid of digital technology to enhance the process, arbitration will be quicker, cheaper and more open and transparent than present justice systems.

About the author - David Hodson

David Hodson

David Hodson OBE MICArb is a family law dispute resolution specialist who deals with complex family law cases, often with an international element. He practices in London and is a partner and co-founder of The International Family Law Group LLP (

He was awarded the OBE in 2014 for 'services to international family law'. He is a visiting professor at the University of Law, giving keynote lectures and contributing to the development in the education of family law. He has written and spoken extensively on family law including many conferences abroad.

He is the editor and a primary author of The International Family Law Practice, (Jordans, 5th edition, January 2017), the leading textbook on international family law. In 2011 he received the inaugural Jordans Family Law Commentator of the Year award.

For further details contact David Hodson on


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