Divorce and separation - alternatives to court

Family court proceedings can be unnecessarily stressful and expensive. In comparison, other approaches can significantly reduce the time and cost involved.

Collaborative law is similar to mediation but differs in that both parties have a solicitor present to advise and assist them in any discussions. Many couples choose this approach to end their marriage or civil partnership, and this page explains collaborative in detail.

Resolution Together
A ‘one lawyer, two clients’ approach allows one lawyer to work with and jointly advise couples. It works by allowing a single legal professional to assist a couple who wish to manage their separation together. Resolution Together is suitable for those whose joint aim is to reach an outcome that meets their needs and is fair, and if they are parents, the needs of their children. You may wish to watch our video about Resolution Together on YouTube or listen to the soundtrack on SoundCloud

Jonathan da Costa offers this service.

Mediation and hybrid mediation
Mediators can help resolve disputes over all issues faced by separating couples. They will meet with you and your partner, identify those issues you can’t agree on, and help you try to reach an agreement.

Mediators are neutral and will not take sides. They will usually recommend that you obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process and guide you on when this should happen.

Hybrid mediation can involve the mediator bringing other family professionals and experts into the process to help deal with complex situations, such as accountants, valuers, independent financial advisers, and medical experts. The mediator can also bring in the parties’ lawyers to help advise. They may additionally engage in shuttle mediation, where the mediator spends time with each party on their own, enabling the opportunity of exploring issues and settlement proposals in greater detail.

Hybrid mediation can be helpful before court proceedings. It is also useful if a couple is already in the court process but wants to achieve a settlement away from the stress, delays, and cost of litigation. Our lawyers can support and advise you if you wish to consider mediation or hybrid mediation sessions.

Couples can agree to appoint an independent family law arbitrator, commit to the arbitration process and abide by the arbitrator’s decision.

The arbitrator is a specially trained solicitor or barrister who will consider submissions and evidence from both parties before making a binding decision. A decision reached through arbitration will be recorded in a legally binding document and lodged with the court.

Early neutral evaluation
Early neutral evaluation is best used at the early stages of a dispute as it can provide valuable insight into the possible outcomes of your case should it go to trial. It is especially appropriate in cases where the parties hold significantly different views and may also be employed if there is a deadlocked issue that no one can agree on.

Private FDR
A private FDR is the private equivalent of the second hearing in financial remedy proceedings at court. The main differences are that the separating couple chooses their judge – a solicitor, senior barrister, or retired high court judge, and pays the judge’s fees. The hearing takes place out of court, at a more comfortable venue, such as a hotel conference room.

When an alternative to court is not possible

Solicitor negotiations
It is not always possible to reach an amicable agreement. If you have decided that none of the above processes are for you we can also negotiate with the solicitor for your partner in the more traditional way, involving sending letters, telephone discussions and meetings.

Court proceedings
If there is no alternative then we can represent you in court proceedings when a judge will make decisions for you. Whilst we recognise that there are some circumstances when this is necessary, as a general principle we feel strongly that it is better for you and your partner to make the decisions rather than a judge making them for you.

Ultimately it will be up to you to decide how you want your divorce, civil partnership dissolution or separation process to work. We can help you decide which approach is best for you and will support you through the process and ensure your best interests are protected, no matter which option you choose to take.