Is Court the only option?

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Family Law Partners are committed members of Resolution which is an organisation committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way. Robert Williams, Resolution Specialist and Collaborative Lawyer, shares the options available to keep your relationship dispute away from court.

So what are the alternatives to Court?

In addition to discussing matters between yourselves (with or without legal advice) the options are:

  • Mediation
  • Collaborative Law
  • Arbitration

Can you tell me a little more about these options?

Mediation

This involves the couple meeting with an independent third party who is a trained mediator. The mediator’s role is not to advise them on the law itself but instead, to help facilitate communication between the couple in a safe environment.

The process is very much focused on the couple remaining in control and working together to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both of them.

One of the key benefits of mediation is that it can help a couple to maintain an amicable relationship and keep the lines of communication open. This is particularly important if the couple have children and will continue to have ongoing communication.

This process can be used to resolve financial disputes and children disputes.

Collaborative Law

The collaborative process involves each person having their own collaboratively trained lawyer and discussing issues in a series of meetings.

The purpose of these meetings is not to be positional but instead is focused on talking issues through and working out what works for both parties and the family.

As part of the collaborative process both the parties and their lawyers sign an agreement confirming that if Court proceedings are issued then the lawyers who have been part of the collaborative process will not act for the parties. This helps to focus the minds of those involved to try and reach agreement rather than simply going through the motions.

This option can be used to resolve disputes over money and/or children and is a great way to negotiate Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

Arbitration

Arbitration is perhaps the method that is most similar to the Court process and is aimed at circumstances where a couple simply cannot reach an agreement and require someone independent to make a decision which binds them as if it were a court order.

The couple can agree to refer the case to an Arbitrator and chose who makes the decision for them (Arbitration is only available for financial disputes and not for children disputes).

What if the issues are limited?

If there is a situation where a couple have been able to reach an agreement over the majority of the issues but there are 1 or 2 key issues which are preventing the conclusion of the case, those individual issues can be referred to Arbitration for determination.

It is likely that the Arbitration process will be faster and it means that the couple have been able to remain in control over what issues are dealt with.

Do I have to attend the arbitration hearing?

This makes Arbitration particularly attractive. In a world where we are all increasingly busy, taking time out to attend a Court hearing is often an unwelcome and costly prospect. If agreed then it may well be possible for an arbitration to be dealt with on the basis of written evidence/arguments without the need for attendance.

So can you sum up the benefits of not involving the Court?

Perhaps the most compelling benefits are that they can be significantly cheaper and faster than the Court process and you remain in control of the issues to be discussed and the timescales required to obtain agreement.

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