Elissa DaCosta-Waldman

The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) developed the arbitration scheme to enable parties to resolve financial disputes more quickly, cheaply and in a more flexible and less formal setting than a court room. It is also expected to save court resources and reduce pressure on the already stretched family courts. 

In order to begin this process the Clients sign a form (ARB1) agreeing to arbitrate and to adopt the IFLA Rules. The Arbitrator is offered the appointment and then seeks the Clients’ agreement to the terms of appointment.   Once the appointment is accepted, the arbitration begins.  The Arbitrator contacts the Clients to elicit information about their dispute and to canvass views as to procedure, giving the Clients a degree of autonomy absent from litigation.    There is then a preliminary meeting for case management directions as appropriate, in the course of which the Arbitrator decides on the procedure to be adopted.  There are interim applications where appropriate and hearings.  Some matters may be dealt with on paper. 

Where there is a hearing, Clients are usually represented and are cross examined.  Legal representatives then make submissions which are considered by the Arbitrator who will, usually within 28 days, make his or her final award in writing.  The Arbitrator is entitled to withhold the award until payment is received for their services.  The Clients then apply to the appropriate court for an equivalent order with the object of the court either approving or enforcing the award.

Arbitration has the following advantages-

  • Clients select their decision maker from a panel of qualified Family Law Arbitrators
  • Arbitrator is continuously and directly involved once appointed
  • Confidentiality, adaptability and flexibility within the adjudication process
  • The process avoids delays and standardisation resulting in speed and costs savings compared with conventional litigation route
  • Versatility in covering all levels of financial dispute as well as resolving discrete issues in a case
  • Suitable for those who cannot agree or have already reached impasse using other dispute resolution methods
  • Finality and enforceability similar to that which is available through litigation

My approach

I am passionate about finding solutions to Client's difficulties in a way which enables them to move on in their lives in a positive manner.   I adopt a practical approach to dealing with client concerns and searching for the appropriate ways to resolve my Client's relationship issues enabling them to continue to communictae with their former partner in a dignified nad principled way, important especially if they share children.

My work

Clients come to see me with a variety of problems from divorce and the financial matters arising out of that as wellas  the fall-out from splitting up from a partner having bought a home together and worrying about how to deal with realising a share in the jointly owned house.  I also deal with Inheritance Claims where a Client expected to receive a legacy in a former partner's will and did not or a surviving spouse who did not receive sufficient from their deceased spouse's estate.

About me

Elissa was called to the Bar in 1990 although she has worked in legal practices since 1973.  Using a creative and innovative approach to finding solutions to client’s financial matters on relationship breakdown, Elissa prides herself on having an ‘inclusive practice’ demonstrating approachability and sensitivity in dealing with alternative family structures.  Thus, in addition to her practice in Matrimonial Finance, Elissa is also an expert in cohabitation claims of both heterosexual and homosexual partners, including drafting cohabitation agreements at the beginning of the cohabitational relationship and dealing with matters by agreement at its end.

Where litigation is the appropriate means of bringing the dispute to conclusion Elissa is an assertive and effective advocate, being National Institute of Trial Advocacy trained.  However, although she has a wealth of advocacy experience, Elissa is a strong proponent of dispute resolution methods that avoid court believing that relationship breakdown requires a solutions based approach rather than an adversarial one.

Elissa is a principled negotiator following the ethos of the Harvard Business School, as well as an experienced Resolution trained mediator.  She became a Collaborative Lawyer in 2005 having collaborated herself in several cases as well as being instructed as an expert for both parties in other collaborative cases.

In May 2012, Elissa qualified as a Family Law Arbitrator and is now a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

What my clients say

'Elissa, you're a star', Liz Whittle, solicitor at KWW

'Thank you for your support and kindness'.  Your infectious joie de vivre and sense of humour made our medation painless.'

It was a pleasure to meet you. I only wish Jayne and I had met you a year and half ago and maybe our relationship problems could have been resolved


Professional & academic

Elissa is a Barrister, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer and Family Law Arbitrator.

She is a published author of legal works and continues to write regularly for legal journals such as Family Law and Resolution Review

Elissa also lectures solicitors and barristers on Family Law related topics

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