The International Family Law Arbitration Scheme

Resolving forum disputes in family law cases with an arbitrator from a neutral country.

“A divorcing couple that has to litigate the consequences of the marital breakdown is not blessed. The couple that first litigates where to litigate might be said to be cursed. In reality it is a curse restricted to the rich. Only they can afford such folly.”

– Thorpe LJ of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in Wermuth (2003)

What We Do

International families have connections with two or more countries around the world. When there are relationship difficulties and it is necessary to engage in court proceedings, a dispute can arise as to which country’s courts or legal system should handle it. Too often, people find themselves involved in a long and expensive preliminary dispute about this issue.

The International Family Law Arbitration Scheme provides a sensible, quick and fair way to determine where family law proceedings should occur. By agreement, the arbitrator can determine the country with which the former couple have the closest connection. The family law dispute can then be resolved under the laws of that country.

Unlike disputes in the courts in many countries, arbitration is entirely confidential and so it is a way in which people can maintain privacy about their marital or relationship difficulties.

Why Choose IFLAS?


A forum dispute can be determined
within a few weeks if the parties and their lawyers provide all the information needed promptly. The arbitrator will give a decision, with written reasons, usually within about four weeks after hearing from the parties.

This contrasts with the situation in the courts in many countries, where it may take months or even years to get to a hearing. Then there may be a further delay before a judgement is given. If litigation about forum proceeds in more than one country, then that may add to the delay in resolving the dispute.


Arbitration of disputes about forum can save a fortune in legal fees and allow people to resolve their family law dispute without having legal battles in two different countries. Once it has been decided which country is the most appropriate forum to hear the dispute, and which laws will be applied, many cases can be resolved by negotiation or mediation.

Although the parties need to pay for the arbitration, this is very much cheaper than paying lawyers to engage in litigation in two different countries. It also avoids the problem that a court in both countries may decide that it will hear the case, and refuse to defer to the courts of the other country leading to a conflict between the Orders of the different courts.


The arbitrator is an experienced part-time judge, former judge or well-known family law specialist.

The arbitrator is from a country unconnected with the dispute and therefore entirely neutral.

The arbitrator will examine the evidence and submissions from both parties, including answers to a detailed IFLAS questionnaire about the countries with which the parties have a connection. He or she will give detailed written reasons for the decision so that both parties can understand why the arbitrator reached that conclusion.