Going through a divorce or separation will naturally take its toll, particularly if there are disagreements along the way. It has long been a myth that the only way to reach a decision is to resort to Court proceedings, which can be timely, costly and lead to even more tension. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is increasingly becoming the sought after way to move forward following the breakdown of a relationship with Courts favouring this approach, encouraging former partners to attempt to resolve matters between themselves.
We offer various options relating to ADR; here, we answer some of the questions we are often asked. If you have further questions or would like to discuss your situation with us in a free initial consultation, contact our Family & Relationships team.
ADR refers to several methods that can be used to resolve matters without resorting to litigious proceedings in Court, including:
Choosing the right option for you will be important, and one that we can discuss with you in more detail. The overall benefits of choosing ADR are:
Collaborative law is perhaps the most transparent method of ADR as you and your former partner are present and part of the discussions throughout proceedings. You would appoint your own collaborative lawyer, as does your former partner. You would then have ‘four way’ meetings involving the four of you to work together to find a resolution, choosing communication over conflict.
The foundation of the collaborative law approach is that both parties wish to avoid Court at all costs. Collaborative law will not be for everyone, but if you and your former partner have this shared objective, it may be the most suitable option.
There are several stages involved in collaborative law:
One of the key benefits of collaborative law is that the lawyers for both parties are not working against each other, but working with each other. They will be trained specifically in the process of collaborative law, working on future plans and not dwelling on the past.
As both you and your former partner will have signed up to the concept that you wish to avoid Court at all costs, it starts off proceedings in a more united environment, opposed to one of tension.
The collaborative process produces a faster result than more traditional methods of resolution; as you are all face to face in your meetings, it removes the need for back and forth correspondence between lawyers and unnecessary delays.
Having a faster and more co-operative approach means you can retain an amicable and respectful relationship with your former partner in the future, which is crucial when children are involved.
Through the collaborative process, you can benefit from not only the collaborative lawyer but their network of other professionals, such as financial advisors and accountants, who can all form your collaborative team.
This method of ADR is suitable for discussing any matters that arise from a divorce or separation, such as children arrangements and finances. This would include, but is not limited to where your children will live and go to school, what will happen to the family home and the division of any other assets.
The collaborative process will take as much time as is needed. This is one of the benefits as it fits in with your timescales and can be done in as many or as few meetings as required.
While collaborative law is a respectful and co-operative approach to divorce proceedings, it may not be successful in every case. Should this happen, your matter would move to Court and your collaborative lawyers would be unable to represent you further.
Family Mediation is another form of ADR; instead of you each having your own representative through collaborative law, both you and your former partner would use one independent Mediator. This specially trained individual would remain neutral throughout proceedings, ensuring that both parties have their voices and wishes heard and work towards an outcome that both parties are happy with for the future. Similar to collaborative law, this is a more amicable way to resolve matters regarding your children and financial arrangements and leaves you in more control over the outcome than going to Court.
Family Mediation can continue for as long as is necessary; some couples require just two meetings while others may need more. One benefit of Family Mediation is the flexibility regarding the timetable; meetings and their frequency can be arranged based on your availability and circumstances.
Family mediation is not legally binding because it is a voluntary process and all discussions are on a without prejudice basis which means they are out of court discussions held with a view to reaching an agreement, this allows the parties talk openly, to make proposals and consider options. Where agreement can be reached at Mediation it will be incorporated into a written agreement which both parties sign and agree to adhere to. The negotiated compromised settlement might be a Separation Agreement about finances or a Parenting Plan concerning children. In financial matters, where there are divorce proceedings, the agreement can be incorporated into a Consent Order which is legally binding.
The main difference between collaborative law and Family Mediation is that while Mediation has one independent third party, in collaborative law, you will each have your trained collaborative lawyer who will also offer you legal advice throughout the proceedings. Whereas collaborative law is run with the ‘four way’ meetings, Family Mediation can be conducted with each party in a separate room with the Mediator going between them if their relationship requires it.
We are able to work with you and your former partner in any form of ADR and offer a free initial consultation for us to assess which option may be best for you. We are Resolution Accredited Specialists who promote and encourage effective dispute resolution to conclude matters in a client, child focused and cost effective way. Contact us today to see how we can help you and your family.