Our experienced Chartered Legal Executive and family law expert David Cobern takes a look at some of the alternatives to court such as mediation…
Do I take it to court or talk?
If I choose to talk, will I be safe?
Will my former partner listen or just delay?
Does she just want to cause me expense?
He is a better negotiator. Will I end up giving away too much?
If we talk he will hide assets or use the time to spend our money.
I need an income while we discuss or I will run out of money.
I haven’t seen our children for weeks. Talking will just delay further.
Is he really interested in settling?
If we agree the arrangements for our children does that mean we can’t get a court order?
These fears will be familiar to many separating couples. They are not irrational. In the wrong situation or at the wrong time, alternatives to court can make matters worse. On the other hand, get it right and the benefits are huge. It will cost less, save time and importantly (particularly in cases involving children), you resolve it between yourselves. Such agreements tend to last compared to court imposed arrangements.
It requires skill and experience to weigh the risks and benefits and advise the right option to resolve your difficulties. Of equal importance, you need advice to decide the right moment to explore it. Our approach is focussed on finding solutions in innovative ways, thinking ‘outside the box’ when required. We are equally at home in court or advising our clients in forms of alternative dispute resolution. We have the experience and specialist knowledge to help you equip yourself for the admittedly daunting process of alternatives to court.
Mediation – Usually lasts over a series of 2 to 4 separate meetings. If you go to mediation, you can leave at any time. You cannot be bound by a mediated agreement until you have taken advice from your solicitor. Disclosure is required. Mediation must be safe. It can take place from separate rooms or supported by your solicitor. We and the mediator will consider suitability before mediation starts. If interim steps are required (e.g. income provision, preventing transfer of assets) to ensure you are not disadvantaged in mediation we will help you to identify this. We will work closely with you and the mediator during the process to keep things moving along and check that all required information is being provided.
Alternative Dispute resolution ‘ADR’ – Similar to mediation, ADR is also voluntary, but usually consists of just one meeting with the parties in separate rooms with their solicitors. Mediators include specialist commercial lawyers and retired judges. Disclosure will be agreed in advance. Each party can brief the mediator privately. If an agreement is reached, it will be prepared by your solicitors and will be binding. This process is a little more ‘commercial’ and pressured than mediation, which is why you are supported by your solicitor.
Round the table meeting – No third parties, just you, your former partner and your respective solicitors. You can be in the same room or separate rooms. It is also voluntary. You will not be bound by any agreement reached without advice from your solicitor, but you may be able to settle ‘on the day’.
Arbitration – If you agree with your former partner to submit your dispute to an arbitrator, the decision is binding. Arbitration is private, swift and tailored to your needs. It is particularly useful in cases where areas of dispute are narrowed and a quick resolution is required rather than then inflexible, lengthy court process.
To find out more why not speak to our family law solicitors in Plymouth and Exeter?