Alternative Dispute Resolution & Family Law

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the world go through very radical changes (some probably for the better, in the long run), very fast. It will probably be some time before we are back to anything resembling the old “normal” and we have all adapted to doing things very differently.

As a firm we have embraced technology to ensure we can continue to serve our clients. However, the Court Service took a very difficult direct hit from the pandemic and was soon inundated with urgent cases concerning adults and young people immediately made more vulnerable by the lockdown at a time when, practically speaking, it was even harder to accommodate all those cases. It is quite right that the most vulnerable are prioritised, but it required us to think inventively to minimise the impact of the delays on our clients, who were waiting to have their less urgent financial and children matters decided.

The Court system must, by necessity, be fairly standard for all situations. This can result in a situation where unnecessary work has to be carried out that won’t be of any benefit to the parties in their particular case. 

Furthermore, the increasing Court workload means their staff are under tremendous pressure to move cases through the system. It is inevitable that sometimes there is insufficient time for a case to be completed on the allocated day, or for the most appropriate level of judge to decide it, resulting in more delays for the Court and the parties, and extra costs and disappointment.

This is where ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) makes its grand entrance. In reality, it has always been bubbling away happily in the background, used by our colleagues in civil law but the rules meant that, until recently, the opportunities to use it in family law were much more limited when, in fact, it is ideal for the issues many of our clients face. 

Thankfully those rules have been addressed and now we have a full array of options we can offer clients for resolving their disputes, whilst avoiding the potential delay and cost of Court.

Many forms of ADR are as binding as a Court decision and therefore provide the same level of certainty and assurance at potentially less cost and in less time, whilst others are designed to give people a “taste” of what a Court might decide. Equipped with that knowledge after an opportunity to explore the issues with an impartial expert, people can be helped to negotiate a settlement and feel that they have really participated in the process leading to the final decision.

ADR also enables parties to agree, with the help of their solicitors, what the most important issues are and equally what they don’t need to be looked at, which once again saves time and the frustration of having to go over issues that they may not feel are relevant. 

Essentially, ADR can be tailor-made to the particular circumstances of the case to ensure best use of time and money, and bring about a swift and economical conclusion to a problem.

Our team are well-versed in the various forms of ADR available for family law and would be happy to discuss them with you and explore how your case could benefit.