Have you considered the benefits of non-court dispute resolution for a family dispute?
There are many benefits to pursuing alternative dispute resolution rather than court proceedings.
ADR stands for alternative dispute resolution, or non-court resolution, and is used in many areas of the law, including for family matters. ADR can take lots of different forms with the most popular being mediation, collaborative law and arbitration. Read more about the different types of ADR.
There are many benefits to pursuing ADR rather than court proceedings and a number of these are set out below.
Issuing a claim in the family court is slow. From April to June 2021, the average time for a Children Act case to come to completion from issue was 41 weeks and over 12,000 financial remedy applications were issued in the same time period.
Once a claim is in the court, you must work to their timetable unless you manage to settle the issue out of court before your scheduled hearings.
By using ADR instead, you are not tied to any external, court–led, timetables and can set your own. If you have an urgent issue you would like to get sorted straight away, creating a DIY settlement, using solicitor-led negotiation, mediation or arbitration, can cut out a large portion of the waiting time that is common within the court system.
It is worth remembering that not all family law issues are acrimonious, and they needn’t become so if the parties are willing to work together.
Court proceedings can add an element of adversarial friction to disputes and so if court can be avoided, it is recommended to do so. As mentioned above, there is no reason you can’t decide on a settlement between yourselves (but do make sure you get it converted into a proper legal document). If you do wish to have a more formal or supported approach, mediation, collaborative law and solicitor-led negotiation can be positive arenas in which to voice your proposals to the other party and work constructively to reach an agreement that benefits everyone.
Choosing your own 'decision maker'/expert
Non-court options allow the parties to choose who they wish to decide their case, in the event that agreement cannot be secured. For example, if your case involves a complex business or pension structure, you can select an expert in that field. If your case involves a complex family structure, you can choose an expert with experience in dealing with such cases that perhaps fall outside of the perceived ‘norm’.
As the court moves towards greater transparency and published judgments, non-court options continue to provide parties with anonymity and confidentiality.
Choosing a process that suits 'you' and your situation
Family structures take many forms. You may be long term unmarried cohabitees, lone parents, civil partners, LGBTQ+ families who have used surrogates and families where one or more parents is trans; to name but a few. The National Centre for Social Research has found that the public is moving towards a more tolerant way of thinking towards these new family structures, but it is no secret that the judiciary in the UK is lacking diversity; it is still the case that only 32% of judges are women, only 8% identify as BAME and 40% of judges are aged 60 or over (Diversity of the Judiciary: 2020 statistics).
Although it is the role of the judge to consider the evidence before them and to approach the case without bias, if you are someone who may not feel comfortable in this scenario and feel that a judge may not understand the intricacies and real-life effects of your issue, arbitration or mediation may be preferable. Both options allow for a qualified third party to be chosen by the parties themselves, meaning a professional with relevant expertise could be selected, providing a safe space that will hopefully inspire cooperation and agreement.
To learn more about non-court options for dispute resolution, speak to our family mediation lawyers.