Divorce – What are the Options Outside of Court?

When you think about divorce, the first thing that springs to mind might well be a heated debate taking place in Court.

Although some divorce or civil partnership dissolution cases and the financial settlements that follow them do end up in Court, these days, such cases are in the minority rather than the majority.

So what are the options for resolving divorce and dissolution outside of the Court arena?

Mediation

Mediation involves both parties attending a series of meetings with a neutral third party. It is a flexible, voluntary and confidential process using a professionally trained mediator to assist the parties in discussions, with the aim of achieving a settlement. Although not involved in the discussions directly, each party can seek advice from their own family law solicitor to take legal advice.

Where an agreement is reached the family law solicitors involved will then record this in a legally binding agreement called a consent order.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law involves a series of meetings between the separating couple and their own solicitors.  The process is not as popular although it allows the parties to voice their wishes or concerns, whilst having the reassurance that their interests are being protected by their solicitor. Ultimately, the couple both have to be happy with the outcome that is reached, which can allow more control over any final settlement. As Collaborative Law involves the parties working together constructively, this often allows for a less hostile sentiment, which can be especially beneficial where the couple have children.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a quasi-court method involving a professional arbitrator (usually an impartial family lawyer or judge) to make a binding decision.

As a quicker and often cheaper way of obtaining judgement, the popularity of family arbitration is increasing.  Arbitration may be suitable for those looking for finality of litigation, the structure offered by more formal proceedings, or couples that feel unable to take part in other alternative methods.

When using the arbitration route, the decision of the arbitrator is binding.

Solicitor led negotiations

Most cases are settled without court proceedings using the traditional solicitor led negotiations. Due to the discretionary nature of resolving the division of matrimonial finances it is important that you use an experienced solicitor to guide you through your case from start to finish. This has the advantage of resolving matters and having the benefit of legal advice as you go along.

Agree directly with your spouse/civil partner

If you can agree financial arrangements with your spouse/civil partner then most of the hard work will be done. It’s advisable to have a lawyer look over the agreement to ensure it is in your best interest and to have it made into a legally binding court order.

With any form of alternative dispute resolution, it is important that both parties are committed to making it work. In the event that discussions break down irretrievably, negotiations may need to start over, which would lead to a prolonged process and greater costs.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increasing amount of pressure on the justice system, resulting in delays in the court process. Circumventing the Court system by looking at alternative ways to resolve family law disputes can therefore mean matters will be resolved far quicker. Other benefits of keeping matters outside of the court include allowing discussions and final settlements to remain private, reducing the impact of stress caused by going through a court case and often achieving solutions in a more cost-effective way.

Anthony Jones is a Director, Head of Family and is a Resolution Accredited Specialist. For more information, please contact him on 0161 641 4555 or email anthony@odonnellsolicitors.co.uk