Alternative Dispute Resolution

When a marriage or relationship breaks down there is heightened emotions both within the relationship and externally from family and friends. Compound this with financial and children issues that need to be resolved, potentially lengthy Solicitors negotiations and court proceedings, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are alternatives to the court process which can if used correctly reduce the length of time it takes to resolve children and/or financial matters.

When you meet with your solicitor they can advise you on the various methods of alternative dispute resolution and the positives and negatives of each based upon your personal circumstances. There are now a number of options available to parties including mediation, arbitration and collaborative law.

Mediation is where an independent trained mediator helps you and your ex-partner to resolve issues relating to the breakdown of the relationship. Whilst mediators often refer to mediation as being quicker and more cost effective than issuing court proceedings. This is not necessarily the case. Mediation requires parties to see beyond their own feelings and agree arrangements with limited support from their legal representatives. Depending upon the issues in dispute this may or ay not be an option for your particular case.

The drawback with mediation is that if no agreement can be reached you could be back at “square one” at the end of the mediation process. It is always important to keep your legal representative in the loop during meditation to advise you and give you guidance on the progression of your case.

In cases where an agreement has been reached it is usual for your solicitor to draft a consent order for a Judge to consider and seal if accepted. Any agreement during mediation is not legally binding

Arbitration is a fairly new dispute resolution process in family law, whereby parties agree to appoint an arbitrator, who will adjudicate on their case. An arbitrator is independent from the parties, both parties will benefit from their own legal representatives throughout the entire process and are able to provide evidence to the arbitrator in support of their case. Each case will turn on its own merits and in some circumstances a final determination can be achieved in a few weeks. Cases can be resolved swiftly with the aid of arbitration and the determination made by the arbitrator can be placed into a final sealed order.

Arbitration can also be used for disputes regarding child arrangements provided that there are no safeguarding concerns. It would aid the process of child disputes to resolve issues in a child focused way to avoid unnecessarily subjecting children to the court process. It is vital for both parents to consider the needs of their children about their own feelings.

Collaboration is another dispute resolution process that enables parties to work together with their solicitors’ to achieve an agreed outcome. Again there are pros and cons for the collaborative process that will need to be considered carefully based on the circumstance of your case and the personalities involved.

If you would like to discuss alternative forms of dispute resolution that may be relevant to your case please contact Elaine Collins, Associate Solicitor on 0121 647 5269 or email

Thursfields award winning Family law solicitors are available at any of our offices and surrounding areas –Birmingham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Solihull, and Halesowen.

Get In touch