Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the term that is used to describe methods of resolving disputes that can often arise when a marriage or relationship ends, but without going to Court.
Our team encourage all forms of ADR. Our commitment to ADR is so strong that we run a specialist family mediation service from our offices. We have a fully qualified mediator Gayle Rowley who is also one of our most experienced and reputable family lawyers.
The mediator is a neutral third party. She engages in a process of “assisted negotiation” between the mediating couple and seeks to encourage and facilitate a resolution of the dispute. The mediator will not impose a solution but works with the couple to assist them in coming up with their own mutually acceptable way forward. If agreement is reached, the mediator can draft it up into a document called a “Memorandum of Understanding” which both parties approve. It can then be sent to each parties’ Solicitor who will then ensure that the agreement is made legal.
Although you do not have to appoint a Solicitor to engage in family mediation, it is usually far better if you do seek legal advice before and/or during the mediation process. This is because the mediator (even if they are qualified family lawyers as well as mediators) cannot give you legal advice. That would place the mediator in conflict. She has to maintain absolute neutrality between you to ensure that she can work with both of you. However, she can give some guidance. For example, if the agreement reached between you is one that would be unlikely to receive the approval of the Court, the mediator can pass on this comment to assist you in coming to realistic agreements. There can be advantages to seeing a mediator who is also a qualified and practising family lawyer for this reason.
If you wish to try family mediation, you can either ask your Solicitor to contact us for a referral form or you can approach us yourself. Just telephone the office on 0116 2385680 or send us an email using the contact form
We also encourage our clients to consider family arbitration as another alternative to Court. This is where both parties agree to appoint a family arbitrator to decide the outcome of a dispute on their behalf. This can be on a single issue or it can be on multiple issues and can relate to finance on separation/divorce or disputes about children.
In appointing an arbitrator, the parties give their agreement to be bound by the decision reached by the arbitrator. Therefore, the arbitrator is given the same role as a Judge and they make their determination after considering the arguments put forward by the parties and evidence. The Arbitrator can also order the evidence that must be brought into the arbitration to help them come to their decision. What is so exciting about family arbitration is that the “hearings” can take place at a Solicitor’s office, in Barristers Chambers or almost anywhere that is convenient to the parties. It also cuts right down on the long delays that often arise when court proceedings have been issued. There can be months between hearings. In arbitration, the progression can be very swift because the arbitrator is not hampered by court timetabling.
After a decision is reached by the arbitrator, it is submitted to Court as an arbitral order and is then fast tracked through the court process to a Judge who then makes the arbitral order legally binding. Increasingly, those who would otherwise have considered court proceedings as their only route forward are now turning to arbitration as a much better alternative.
Round Table Meetings
One of the causes of frustration and anxiety in divorce settlements can be the time it takes to resolve a divorce settlement or care arrangements for children in written negotiations between Solicitors. We encourage our clients to consider round table meetings as an alternative. This is where both parties and their Solicitors arrange to meet together to see if they can broker agreements to resolve the issues across the table. If this method is used to resolve finances on separation/divorce, there must be full and frank disclosure of both parties’ financial circumstances before the round table meeting can go ahead as with any written negotiation. The difference is that once financial disclosure has been exchanged, a deal can be struck in a day whereas written negotiations can take weeks. Even if a full settlement cannot be achieved in one round table meeting, it often leads to a narrowing of issues between the parties who may then agree to a second round table meeting or find themselves able to resolve the remaining issues via written negotiations having dealt with some of the more thorny issues at the round table.
All of our family solicitors have the expertise to conduct round table meetings on behalf of their clients.
What are the advantages of ADR?
The principle advantage is economy. ADR is likely to be cheaper than litigation through the courts and also much quicker. However, of equal importance is the potential for the stress and emotional turmoil of relationship breakup to be lessened. Most forms of ADR help both parties to come out of the process on speaking terms. This is so important if there are children in the marriage or relationship who will benefit hugely if any dispute between their mum and dad is resolved swiftly and with as little contention as possible. The impact of parental divorce and separation on children can be enormous.
When is ADR inappropriate?
If one or both parties are unwilling to compromise or listen to the other party, ADR may not be suitable. ADR (particularly family mediation) requires both parties to really want to sort it out between themselves rather than taking it to Court or engaging in tit for tat letters through their Solicitors. If one or both parties are unable to negotiation, ADR will not be for them.
Similarly, there may be some circumstances where one or both parties feel that they need a court order and that an agreement reached with the other party is not enough. In many cases, it is possible for parties to instruct their Solicitors to draft an agreement reached in mediation into a document that can be filed at the court and made into a court order, but this may not be possible when there is the need for urgent orders to be made for example.
If you would like to know more about family mediation, you can contact us by email or telephone and we will send you some information. If you are interested in arbitration or round table meetings and have a Solicitor, you should talk to them about wanting to try ADR. If you do not have a Solicitor representing you, then contact us and we will explain more about the process.