Over the last 10 years there has been a growing momentum and trend of different options to help resolve issues arising out of relationship breakdown without court intervention. It includes arbitration, family mediation, child inclusive mediation and collaborative law. Not only are the costs significantly less than the court process, but these options can provide a quicker, more child focused, balanced approach to issues that a couple may face
What are these options and how do they work?
There are a great number of benefits to having discussions facilitated between parties by a mediator, face to face, where resolutions can be reached and ideas and plans structured which would be much more difficult through either solicitor negotiation, or the court process. The process is conducted to the parties’ timescale, is without prejudice, enabling parties to speak freely and is cost effective as the mediation hourly rate is often shared between the parties, rather than both incurring the legal costs of negotiating through their own solicitors. At the end of the mediation process, documents are completed by the mediator, which can if necessary, then be converted into a court order by the parties’ solicitors who ensure that their client has independent legal advice before being bound to anything. There is also the option of Child Inclusive Mediation, enabling the wishes and views of a child to be brought into the decision making process. As experienced mediators, Claire Colbert and Rachael Oakes can provide mediation for all family law issues.
Collaborative law is an approach based on both parties having a lawyer who is collaboratively trained. The process is a series of four way meetings with both lawyers and clients present at all times. At the very beginning of this process, each client will explain what they want to achieve and why it is important to them. These priorities will dictate and determine how matters are then discussed and moved forward. The benefit of this process is that both parties have their lawyer with them at all stages. The legal advice is “on tap” and obtained throughout the process unlike mediation where the mediator is not able to give legal advice.
Agreements reached through the collaborative process can be converted into a court order. Unfortunately if the collaborative process is not successful the agreement to deal with matters in this way requires both parties to instruct new solicitors should they wish to issue court proceedings. This can be a great incentive to encourage people to try to resolve matters to enable them to retain their preferred solicitor.
Arbitration is a growing alternative for family law disputes. The trend towards arbitration is largely because of the courts finding themselves under significant pressure from increased demand. Resolving matters as quickly as possible is often in the best interest of all involved and arbitration allows the parties to select their choice of arbitrator (normally retired judges, barristers or senior lawyers) to adjudicate between the parties on the issues in dispute.
Parties commit to the arbitration process and are bound to any award made by the arbitrator, which is then sanctioned by the court in the normal way. Benefits of this option include judge selection, time and location control and the promise of confidentiality without the risk of media interest through the court process. There is a cost consequences as privately paying for an arbitrator over a number of days can be an expensive alternative to a free judge in the normal litigation process. It is also possible to use arbitration to deal with discrete issues that may be preventing other issues from resolving e.g. interim maintenance.
People often fear the cost and time likely be spent in dealing with the arrangements at the point of relationship breakdown, but these alternative options provide choice at what is often the most stressful time in their life. These options all enable matters to resolve much quicker than an average court led case, which takes around 8 to 12 months. Out of court options enable people to control the timetable and how quickly things move forward as well as selecting when and who will decide if they cannot agree, which doesn’t happen in the traditional court process. Due to pressure on court time, different Judges may deal with each stage of the litigation, with limited continuity. This can also mean delay and additional costs to reach to a final resolution.
Doing The Right Thing
Along with this there are a number of complimentary services that we can recommend including life coaches, therapy and counselling to enable parties to move forward with their own lives following a difficult and/or unexpected separation. At Freeths, throughout September and October, we are arranging separation counselling sessions for new clients as part of our unique client centred approach. We believe in doing the right thing and therefore, it is important to ensure our clients are fully supported through the separation process both legally and emotionally. These counsellors are able to provide the support and tools needed to help clients get through the emotional impact of divorce and separation, makes the legal process and steps we need to discuss with you easier to focus on.
If you need any advice or assistance concerning any of the issues relating to the breakdown of a relationship or the out of court resolution options available, please do not hesitate to call the team here at Freeths.