When people think about family law disputes they often automatically think about court proceedings. However such disputes needn’t go to court and can in fact be resolved more quickly, cost effectively and amicably using alternative forms of dispute resolution.
The Lord Woolf reforms mean that these different ways of settling disputes are being used more and more in place of court action for civil justice matters.
The problem with court proceedings
One of the main problems associated with court action is the stress it causes parties due to its acrimonious nature. The court process involves winners and losers and can unnecessarily foster bitterness between the two parties. If children are involved in the family dispute, this hostility can be very distressing.
Parties lose a lot of influence over their family dispute when they go through court because the court will make a binding judgement without the opportunity for any negotiation between the parties. Parties must follow a preset procedure in a very public arena and it means that all of their private interests are made available for all to see.
Alternative dispute resolution methods
Here are three alternative ways of resolving family law disputes which avoid the problems detailed above in relation to the court process.
1. Family mediation: Family mediation allows each party to consult a jointly instructed impartial mediator who offers guidance on the divorce process and attempts to discover ways in which the two parties can reach agreement.
2. Collaborative law: This process is designed to avoid litigation and make the divorce process less expensive. Parties agree at the outset that court proceedings will not be used and in order to later go to court, parties will need to instruct new lawyers to support them. A number of meetings take place between both parties and their solicitors with the aim of reaching agreement on the issues at hand. There is little prior interaction between the solicitors which makes the process less expensive and each party receives guidance from their family solicitor throughout the process.
3. Arbitration: Family arbitration once again uses a neutral family law expert who plays the role of a judge in proceedings. The arbitrator will make a final decision on the case and depending on the agreement struck at the start of the process this will either be legally binding or purely a guideline (allowing for court action). This can be a less stressful way of resoling family disputes and requires an agreement to be signed by both parties agreeing to commit to the arbitration process. The Woolf reforms now encourage parties to explore some of the methods above.
Family Law Dispute Resolution – our team have the answers you need
We understand how helpful alternative methods of dispute resolution can be. Our divorce solicitors would be happy to help you find the best way of sorting out the issues involved in your divorce, so get in touch today.
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