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Can I become a Family Court arbitrator?

In summary to be a Family Court arbitrator you need to be an experienced family lawyer, complete a course and apply to be added to the list of arbitrators.

What is Family Court Arbitration?

In an effort to reduce costs for parties accessing the Family Court certain property matters can now be referred to arbitration by the Court. The parties must pay for the arbitrator, and while the Court has some powers to make orders about who will pay but it appears to be pretty much user pays. The parties present arguments to the arbitrator and the arbitrator makes a finding which can then be entered as a judgment by the Family Court.

You can read more about it in the Court's notice here.

Who can be an arbitrator

This is set out in the Family Law Regulations and you can read it here, but an arbitrator is a practising solicitor who has been practising in at least 25% family law for at least five years, who has completed a course and who has applied to be included in the list of arbitrators.

A family lawyer who is an accredited specialist can also apply, though in NSW you have to be practising for five years to be an accredited specialist so perhaps this is more relevant in other states that have lower requirements for accreditation.

How is this different from mediation?

At the moment parties only participate in property mediation if they chose to, whereas the court can orders parties into arbitration. Most importantly though arbitration is, in most cases, binding. The arbitrator makes a finding.

In mediation the mediator tries to get the parties to agree with each other rather than imposing their own finding upon the situation.

Should I become a Family Court arbitrator?

There are a number of factors here, the current list is quite long though of course it is a Federal list, and while the Court orders arbitration it doesn't tell the parties who to use. Becoming an arbitrator is much like any other business endeavour, you need to find clients or parties who will use you. Before you undertake the cost of a course have a think about your existing referrer network and how much work you are likely to obtain through this avenue.


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