Out of Court ways to resolve disputes

Following a breakdown in a relationship it can sometimes be hard to communicate with your former partner and this may mean that it can be difficult to reach an agreement. But this does not necessarily mean that your divorce or finances will need to be settled in Court. There are a number of out of Court methods that could help you reach an agreement quickly and more cost effectively than Court proceedings.

  • Mediation – you and your ex-partner discuss the issues between you with an impartial third party (a mediator) and attempt to reach agreement.
  • Collaborative Process – you and your ex-partner (and your lawyers) try to negotiate an agreement together.
  • Arbitration – a neutral third party (an arbitrator) decides on your case as if they were a judge in Court. This method is useful if you want to keep your divorce out of the public eye, and for the timing of the process to fit around you.

We have a large team that includes specifically trained mediators and collaborative divorce lawyers.

There are many advantages to settling your divorce out of Court: it can be much quicker, cost less, not to mention reduce the stress you’re going through. It’s also a much less confrontational way of sorting things out and can help minimise the effects on your children too. Reaching an agreement out of Court has a far higher success rate and can be far more attractive than a judge making a decision that neither party is happy with. Out of Court agreement can also, hopefully, avoid rifts developing between parties and benefit future communication which can be especially important if there are children involved.

However, it may be necessary to enter into Court proceedings, if you and your ex-partner are not honest about your financial circumstances, or are not prepared to try and come to an agreement, then your case will need to be decided at Court.

What is mediation?

A mediator is a neutral third party that will help you and your partner identify the issues and help you find solutions through face-to-face discussions. You can meet in a neutral environment and progress the discussions and negotiations at your own pace.

Any offers exchanged in the mediation process are “without prejudice”, meaning that they are private and cannot be used in any Court proceedings. If any final agreement is reached then the mediator will assist you in drawing up a “memorandum of understanding” which we would then use to create the necessary formal paperwork, in many cases this will be a Court Order which would be issued by the Court to become binding.

The process of mediation is voluntary and the mediators are impartial, it is a very attractive option to parties as the entire process is confidential.   It is important to have a legal advisor alongside a mediator as mediators cannot give you any legal advice so they cannot determine whether the settlement is fair.

What is Collaborative law?

This process differs from mediation in that each party will have a legal advisor who sits in on all the meetings. It is a form of non-confrontational dispute resolution the aim is to allow couples who are separating to agree a solution without the need for costly and stressful Court action.

The process involves you and your partner and two lawyers all working together through a series of four-way meetings. The number of meetings needed depends on the complexity of the issues.

At the start of the process you will agree that neither lawyer acting in the process will be able to represent their client if the matter ends up in Court, this helps to ensure that everyone is committed to the process.

The amount of information disclosed and what matters are most important is set by you and the other party which allows you to feel more in control of how the matter is resolved compared to a judge resolving the situation if in Court. As everyone is working together as a team it reduces conflict and allows relationships to be maintained which is especially important if there are children involved.

Special advice such as from an accountant of pension specialist can also be obtained where appropriate to ensure that any solution remains workable.

Once an agreement is reached then the collaborative lawyers will draft and file the appropriate documents at Court to allow the decision to be legally binding giving certainty to both parties.

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Joe Bartlett Partner
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