The time and cost of steps taken to resolve a dispute must be reasonable having regard to the complexity of the dispute and the amount at stake. So the steps required to resolve a dispute over a $30,000 car are very different from those required for a dispute over a complex business worth millions of dollars. This is illustrated in the table of steps required. After discussion at the preliminary conference the Arbitrator will adopt the procedure that will best suit the particular dispute.

Where the property at issue is substantial, the arbitration is likely to pass through a series of steps if it does not settle along the way:[1]

  • Parties agree on who they want as arbitrator or ask AMINZ to appoint one.
  • Arbitrator organises a preliminary conference with lawyers and parties. Can be by phone (especially where lawyers or clients are at a distance) but ideally in person.
  • Arbitrator provides precedent s 21A arbitration agreement. Signed by clients (and sometimes trustees) following lawyer certification requirements under s 21F.
  • Factual statements and disclosure by each party in accordance with timetable set at the preliminary conference, usually taking the form of (i) affidavits setting out factual background and a list of current assets, liabilities, and values plus (ii) voluntary disclosure of any additional documents that the other party may wish to see.
  • (If required) requests by one party for further documents and information held by the other followed by either voluntary compliance or conference with arbitrator to resolve.
  • Each side provides to the arbitrator and other party a non-binding spreadsheet analysis of assets, liabilities, values and suggested division.
  • Issues conference with arbitrator. Usually results in settlement. Otherwise directions given for steps required to resolve outstanding issues. 
  • Each party provides final affidavits, final spreadsheet analysis and synopsis of submissions.
  • Either defended hearing with parties present or arbitrator determines on the papers.
  • Award from the arbitrator. If necessary the award can be filed in the High Court and enforced.

[1] At least four out of five relationship property arbitrations are settled at some point during this process.