Litigation is far from the only option to resolving family disputes. Alternative methods of resolving disputes can provide for a more amicable outcome beneficial to both parties, and as the family court system shifts to a model of greater transparency, other options are likely to become increasingly popular.
As part of Season 1 of the Stewarts Divorce and Family Law Podcast, hosts Sam Longworth, Jenny Bowden and Tim Carpenter speak to members of our industry-leading team about mediation, collaborative law and arbitration in family law, discussing what differentiates each approach and their relative merits.
Episode 7: Mediation in family law – an introduction
This introduction to mediation and other forms of ‘alternative dispute resolution’ or ADR broadly discusses the non-court based routes available to couples to deal with the circumstances of separation or children issues. Jenny Bowden is joined by Richard Hogwood and Sophie Chapman to consider when cases may or may not be suited to ADR.
Richard begins by explaining when alternative dispute resolution is best used, as well as how an initial assessment would be carried out and discussed with a client. He and Sophie says that most people will be drawn to one method of alternative dispute resolution once the options have been laid out to them.
This episode deals primarily with mediation. Sophie explains that a mediator does not act for either party, but is there to guide them both through a process of understanding the issues that need to be resolved, and working through those issues. They will encourage both people to consider different perspectives.
The conversation concludes with top tips for anyone considering mediation, including thinking hard about timelines and making the most of the support of a solicitor where appropriate.
Episode 8: Collaborative law – an introduction
Following on from episode 7, the collaborative law process is another form of ADR. The process can be used by couples who want to end their marriage and achieve a settlement that meets their needs and the needs of their children, if they have any, while avoiding court proceedings and any threat of one of them initiating litigation. Debbie Chism and Voirrey Ward join Tim Carpenter to outline how the process works and how it is best used.
As a collaboratively-trained lawyer, Debbie is perfectly placed to explain the process, that can be used not just for separations but also to prepare pre and post nuptial or cohabitation agreements in a purely collaborative way. A commitment not to litigate and reach agreement in as amicable way possible means that the animosity is taken out of the equation.
Voirrey notes that the collaborative process will only work if both parties fully embrace it. Taking the form of a joint team effort as opposed to an ‘us versus them’ scenario, there is less need for positioning and less room for misunderstandings.
That said, there are some cases where a collaborative approach is unlikely to be appropriate, including if there is mistrust about parties being fair to each other and the whole family.
Episode 9: Arbitration in family law – an introduction
Arbitration is a way of disputes being determined between two parties outside of court, but in a formal and binding setting. Instead of a judge, the case is dealt with by an arbitrator whose role is to oversee the dispute and ultimately determine it. Sam Longworth, Lucy Stewart-Gould and Jenny Duggan meet in this episode to discuss the benefits that arbitration can bring to divorce and family matters.
Family law arbitration came into force in England & Wales from 2012, starting with financial disputes before being extended out to cover parental disputes about children too. Flexibility was championed in the early years of arbitration as the main reason for its introduction.
Jenny provides an overview of the process, starting with the early evaluation of the issues in the case and priorities of the parties. It’s important to remember that arbitration is a route to somebody else making the decision for the couple, and so this route shouldn’t be taken until and unless you feel that settlement won’t be possible through negotiation.
Lucy explains that as well as helping to resolve financial disputes, arbitration can be effective for parents who have been unable to reach agreement about anything to do with their children. This can range from how much time they spend with each parent, to discrete issues such as schooling or medical decisions, or much bigger issues such as one parents wish to relocate either within this country or internationally.
More Divorce and Family podcast episodes
Season one of the podcast is now available to listen to in full, and covers topics including finances in a separation, what to expect in court, common mistakes that can be avoided and co-parenting after a separation.
Our team also discusses the introduction of no-fault divorce in a special episode, discussing the significant changes to divorce in 2022 and why these changes matter to separating couples.
Season two of the podcast is currently in production. Following the success of season one, which has attracted an active listener base and earned spots on ‘top podcast’ lists, our team will move on to discuss pre- and post-nuptial agreements, the law regarding unmarried couples, and an introductory look at the law surrounding international child abduction.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Divorce and Family pages.
If you require assistance from our team, please contact us.
Subscribe – In order to receive our news straight to your inbox, subscribe here. Our newsletters are sent no more than once a month.