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What alternatives are there to court in divorce?


Our divorce and family law team regularly deals with highly complex cases that arise following the breakdown of a marriage or relationship. This can often involve providing advice on how to resolve financial issues following divorce, and whether it is necessary to take the matter to court. In this post we look at what alternatives there are to court proceedings to reach a financial settlement.

In many cases, it is not usually in the client’s interests to pursue a financial settlement through court. One key financial reason is, by the time a client faces a judge at a final hearing to reach a settlement, the legal costs may run into five or even six figure sums.

There may be circumstances, of course, where it is unavoidable to go to court to reach a fair and final financial settlement, but it is beneficial to all parties to try and explore the alternatives and recognise the advantages of avoiding court proceedings, which include:

  • Avoiding sky-rocketing legal costs.
  • Reaching an agreement where both parties have control over the outcome.
  • Settling within a timeframe and pace that works to the divorcing couple’s schedule and not to the court’s timetable.
  • Achieving an outcome where both parties continue to have open dialogue and are still amicable.

There are several options available to avoid taking matters to court to reach a financial settlement. To start, a straight-forward and non-confrontational option to resolve matters at ‘arm’s length’ can be achieved by negotiation using email or telephone.

Separating couples seeking to reach an agreement without the involvement of their lawyers may opt for mediation, working with a neutral mediator in joint meetings to reach an agreement. When mediation takes place, appointed lawyers can still offer advice to clients between mediation appointments and can assist in drafting any final agreement, (often resulting in a ‘consent order’) once the mediation process is complete.

There is also the option for collaborative law, where parties work with specially-trained lawyers at round-table meetings.

For more contentious matters, separating couples may elect to appoint a third-party arbitrator to formally adjudicate on any issues and to assist in financial negotiations.

A Private FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) hearing is another option, where a judge is appointed on a privately paid basis to conduct a hearing to assist the parties in settling their case.

Each separating couple will have a different financial situation and to reach a suitable settlement may involve a variety of options. Specialist divorce lawyers will strive to adopt a bespoke process or method of negotiation that will suit each individual’s circumstances in order to resolve matters promptly and cost-effectively.

For anyone considering divorce or separation or experiencing ongoing financial issues due to a relationship breakdown, it is strongly advisable to seek profession legal advice as soon as possible.

If you require any further advice in relation to issues raised within this article, please contact a member of our family law team on 01772 258 321.

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