Alternatives to family mediation

Posted by Laura Bennett on
Mediation has become a favoured approach for couples to resolve disputes which arise on separation. However, not every case is suitable for mediation, but this does not mean that in those situations the couple have no alternative than to look to formal proceedings in the Family Court for a remedy.

There are a number of different methods of dispute resolution available to couples and Blake Morgan's Family team can help you assess the approach that will work for you. A summary of some of the options available are set out below.

Collaborative approach

Collaborative law was developed by family lawyers to manage the divorce process in a more dignified manner. It involves a series of face to face meetings, with the clients assisted by their respective lawyers, with the aim of reaching an amicable consensus. As with mediation, collaborative law can also address issues that may not be of a legal nature, and allows those concerns to be addressed and looked at through the use of outside experts if necessary, for example, counsellors, accountants and financial advisors. For more information read our Guide to Collaborative Law.

Early Neutral Evaluation

Early Neutral Evaluation in family law cases is an up-and-coming method of dispute resolution. The person undertaking the evaluation is provided with full financial disclosure and statements of issues between the parties. An indication of the projected outcome if matters were pursued within the Family Court is provided to the parties, who can then use this to narrow the issues and hopefully achieve a negotiated settlement. Unlike arbitration, this indication is not binding upon the parties. Read how Early Neutral Evaluation could have assisted a recent case.

Arbitration

Arbitration is increasingly being chosen by couples where it appears that a negotiation is unlikely to result in a settlement, which can often be due to a complex legal issue which an independent third party needs to assess and determine. As with Early Neutral Evaluation, the arbitrator is provided with full disclosure and the parties or more commonly their legal representatives make submissions to the arbitrator. Witnesses can be called and cross-examined.

Originally, arbitration was designed only to deal with financial issues arising out of separation, but recently this has been extended and arbitrators are now able to make an award in cases involving arrangements for care of children.

Arbitrators can be chosen for their expertise and the date and location of the arbitration can be chosen to suit the parties. Whilst the arbitrator will charge a fee, the process is often much quicker than formal Court proceedings and as a result the parties' costs are often lower than would otherwise be the case.

A decision by an arbitrator is known as an arbitral award and is binding on the parties. There are only very limited grounds for appeal. The Family team at Blake Morgan has recently acted for a client in a reported case which has developed the practise of arbitration in family disputes and has clarified when the Court will set aside an arbitral award.

For further information on the alternatives to mediation, please contact the Blake Morgan Family team. 

About the Author

Photograph of Laura Bennett

Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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01865 258052

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