UK: Ten Ways To Get Divorced – And Eight Of Them Do Not Involve Going To Court

Last Updated: 20 July 2018
Article by Alexandra Tribe

This article was authored by Alexandra Tribe.

When considering divorce, people tend to think that you either sort things out yourself around the kitchen table or involve solicitors and go to court. There is in fact a whole range of options in between. There are pros and cons of each option but they tend to increase in costs the further down the list you go with the increase in involvement of professionals.

1. Kitchen Table (negotiating together without help)

This is certainly one of the cheapest options and can be very quick. It works well where there are no children and there is going to be a 'clean break' i.e. the family's assets will be split and there will be no ongoing maintenance.

Disadvantages: people may reach agreement without understanding their rights or the implications of what is agreed. If they do not file a consent order with the court they may find themselves in difficulties years down the line.

2. Assisted Joint Negotiation

A growing number of clients are deciding that they would like to sort matters out between themselves but with help from lawyers along the way. Many solicitors now offer an 'unbundling' service which allows for initial advice about legal rights and responsibilities and then allows the client to buy advice and assistance as they need it along the way rather than have the lawyers deal with everything. It can be very reassuring for a client to be working towards resolving matters amicably but with the benefit of legal advice and assistance as to the process.

Disadvantages: a solicitor cannot advise both parties and each individual would have to have their own solicitor. Expectations also need to be carefully managed as to exactly what the solicitor will be doing.

3. Mediation with a Neutral Professional

Mediation is usually less expensive and quicker than other options involving third parties. A skilled mediator facilitates discussion between the parties and assists them in reaching an outcome which will be approved by the court. It is a flexible process and can be used for all sorts of issues arising from family breakdown. All the negotiations are without prejudice which means that options can be explored without fear of them being used outside the mediation process. Where mediation is appropriate success rates are around 75%.

Disadvantages: mediators cannot provide partial advice although they will provide a lot of legal (and other) information. The couple will be encouraged to seek the advice of a solicitor throughout the process and certainly before an agreement is entered into. Mediation is not for everyone and is inappropriate in cases where, for example, one party does not feel safe negotiating with the other or where there is a power imbalance.

4. Collaborative Law

This combines the benefits of mediation with each person having their own individual lawyer with them to provide support. Clients sign an agreement to state that if the process breaks down they will each find new lawyers and this helps keep everyone focused on finding creative solutions. The success rate of collaborative cases is 85%.

Disadvantages: If the process does break down there is some duplication of costs as new solicitors will need to be instructed. A client's expectations must also be carefully managed as the lawyer will be working towards finding solutions rather than necessarily fighting for the best possible outcome for their client.

5. Round Table Meetings

Once financial disclosure is complete the lawyers and clients can attend a meeting to try to reach agreement. These meetings encourages dialogue between the couple and mean matters are resolved more quickly than going through the court process.

Disadvantages: As the lawyers are not working on a collaborative basis they may take more of a positional rather than an interest based approach. Often the clients do not really participate (they may not be in the room where the actual negotiation is taking place) and so their ability to control the outcome is limited. These meetings can be very tiring for all involved and there is a real pressure to reach agreement before the end of the day. This can lead to things being forgotten or people giving up on what is really important to them.

6. Arm's Length Negotiations

These are useful for clarity as everything is written down or where the client cannot bear the thought of direct negotiations with their former partner.

Disadvantages: It can be frustratingly slow and negotiations may go on for months. Correspondence can also increase hostility between the parties, particularly if solicitors use inflammatory language. There is limited opportunity for in-depth discussions or finding creative solutions.

7. Arbitration

The parties can agree an arbitrator who will decide their case after hearing submissions from both side's lawyers. This is quicker than waiting for a court date, means you can choose your own judge and is private, which can be important for some clients, particularly those in the public eye. The arbitrator's decision will be binding.

Disadvantages: the couple is handing over the decisions about the outcome to a third party rather than being involved in it themselves.

8. Private Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR)

The couple choose a legal professional (usually a barrister) to give them an indication of what a court would be likely to order at a final hearing. This is done with a view to helping the parties negotiate an agreement. As with arbitration, the couple can choose their 'judge' and it is quicker than waiting for a date for an FDR at court.

Disadvantages: while quicker than waiting for an FDR date from the court, the costs are around the same with the additional fee of the legal professional who will be hearing the case.

9. Litigation up to FDR

The parties will follow the court process and after around six to nine months will have a hearing where the judge indicates what sort of order he or she would be likely to make at a final hearing. It is often helpful for individuals to hear this from a judge and it helps focus the parties on settlement. The fact that everyone is in the court building together provides an opportunity for a round table meeting as at option 5 above.

Disadvantages: The process is costly as there is a large amount of lawyer involvement in the process of getting to the FDR and on the day itself. Clients often feel pressured to reach a settlement.

10. Litigation to final hearing

Sadly for a very small minority of clients litigation is the only possible option. These may have ex-partners who refuse to take advice or engage with the process and this is the only way to ensure they get a fair settlement.

Disadvantages: This is hugely costly, emotionally, financially and psychologically. It can be very damaging for children, even if the litigation was not about them and they were not directly involved in the process.

Each client and every divorce is unique and at Expatriate Law we aim to understand what is important to you, what your concerns and anxieties are, what you want to avoid and what your aspirations for your family's future are. We can then consider the various options with you in detail so you can choose the means which will give you the protection and outcome you wish for.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. For any further queries or follow up please contact Expatriate Law at

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions