• Navigating divorce or separation can be extremely daunting. It is unsurprising that making decisions about the family’s future can sometimes feel impossible, especially when emotions are so high. Often there are difficult discussions about the children, disputes about complex financial matters, including family-run businesses and inherited land.

    Many people will be aware that one way to resolve disputes of this nature is through the family courts. However, most family law specialists will tell you that court proceedings are timely, costly and involve a Judge or Magistrates making decisions about your future. For these reasons, the court system is often viewed as a last resort.

    Help is, however, at hand and learning about Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR” is a good place to start to your journey to reaching a resolution of the issues. ADR is the name given to various ways of resolving disputes other than taking the matter to court and it includes:

    • Mediation – you and your spouse/partner will meet with a mediator to try to reach a solution. The mediator is impartial and will assist you both in reaching an agreement. Though the mediator will not give specific legal advice, they will provide explanations surrounding the legal framework to assist in understanding how matters might be dealt with by the court.
    • Collaborative – this is where you and respective lawyers work together round a table to resolve disputes. The aim is to achieve a fair resolution for the family unit and solicitors will work in a non-positional and non-confrontational way.
    • Arbitration – your matter will be referred to a skilled, trained arbitrator who will hear both sides of the matters in dispute. The arbitrator will issue a decision that is legally binding on you both and there are usually solicitors who present the respective case at the arbitration hearings. The arbitrators can generally hear cases more quickly than a court will be able to resolve disputes.
    • Early Neutral Evaluation – this is when an evaluator (often a solicitor, barrister or retired judge) will be appointed to give an independent and expert opinion on the merits of a case. The evaluation is not binding, however it can be extremely useful in narrowing or resolving issues.
    • Resolution Together – allows one lawyer to work with and advise couples jointly. This is a new way of working, which reflects significant changes in the law given joint applications to end marriage can now be made by separating couples under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act.

    ADR is a great way of helping take control, making decisions together and building a positive future for the family. Speaking to a solicitor at the early stages of your discussions will help you understand the best ADR option(s) for you and the family depending on the specific circumstances. At Brachers, our empathetic family lawyers offer a range of alternative dispute resolution methods working closely with clients to identify the best way forward.

    This article was first published in the February 2024 edition of South East Farmer.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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