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Publish date

28 March 2024

Taking the fight out of divorce: alternatives to court

Helen Waite, Partner in our Family team, recently wrote a piece for Wealden Times.

Going through a divorce can be an incredibly difficult time. While in some cases there is no alternative but to involve the family courts, it is often not in anyone’s best interest to do so.

There are many reasons for this. The family courts are currently experiencing long delays and the court process is costly, both emotionally and financially. Also the parties themselves often have more control over the outcome if an agreement can be reached without going to court – as any order a judge imposes may not make either party happy.

Fortunately, there are a range of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options to consider and that we can assist with.

One Couple One Lawyer

One of the newest ADR options. Both parties appoint the same solicitor to help them come to an agreement. The lawyer is able to give general advice and guide the parties to reach an agreement. The discussions take place together as does the divorce process and the process of reaching a final agreement.

Mediation

Both parties meet with a trained mediator, some of whom are also qualified to meet with children as part of the process. The mediator assists you by explaining the law and the boundaries of it, and helps you to reach an agreement. Even if you don’t feel able to sit in the same room the mediator can perform shuttle mediation, going between two rooms.

Collaborative law

All discussions take place sitting round the table with each party having their own collaborative lawyer at the meetings. The lawyers, unusually, work together to try and help you come up with a solution. The collaborative process allows you to be a little more innovative than the family courts can be. Any agreement reached can be drawn up as a document to be approved and sealed by the court.

Private Financial Dispute Resolution (PFDR)

This allows you to speed up the process for agreeing financial arrangements. Both parties need to agree to take this route and there is an extra cost involved in paying privately for a judge, but usually it would save money overall. The Judge gives an indication as to what they would order at a final hearing. For many people that is enough for them to be able to then go on to reach an agreement.

Arbitration

This enables parties to take control and is much quicker than going to court, but does require agreement from all involved. The arbitrator hears evidence / representations from both sides and will then arbitrate the decision. Again, whilst there is an additional cost, it may not in fact cost any more money than a hearing, and you are likely to reach a conclusion much more quickly.

We find that the above options can work extremely well in even the most complex and contentious of cases.  Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these issues.

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