The leading organisation for family solicitors, Resolution, has nominated 28 November to 2 December 2022 as this year's Good Divorce Week. Sadly, despite the positive connotations, it's not something to celebrate.

There are significant delays and backlogs within the family court system, which are worsening and causing uncertainty and stress for those involved.

Cases involving applications by parents and carers for Child Arrangement Orders typically take just under a year to reach their conclusion, during which time families may not know with whom their child or children will ultimately live or where they will go to school.

Cases involving financial matters on divorce are commonly taking 12-18 months to reach a conclusion, unless the parties can agree an outcome sooner.

Good Divorce Week is about raising awareness of the state of the court system and how improvements can be made. Resolution is engaged in speaking to MPs and practitioners and parties to proceedings to try and find solutions to problems caused by the covid backlog, the lack of judges and insufficient court resources.

It is always advisable to try and settle a dispute out of court, either through direct discussions, or with the assistance of mediators and or solicitor. Here at Herrington Carmichael, we recognise the importance of explaining to our clients the varied dispute resolution options available to them.

Discussion “at the kitchen table”

It is often possible for separating parties to discuss matters between themselves and then consult with us to assist them in obtaining a concluded and legally binding agreement.

Solicitor negotiation

Where parties cannot talk between themselves, we will assist parties to find an agreed way forward by engaging in negotiation through written correspondence.

Mediation

Reaching an agreement in mediation can be quicker and less expensive than using solicitors or being legally represented in court proceedings.

Mediators are impartial and will reality check outcomes suggested by the parties to ensure that they do not enter an agreement that disadvantages them or which does not pass the legal test of fairness.

Arbitration

The parties can choose an arbitrator, who will be a specialist family lawyer such as a solicitor, barrister or Judge, to hear their dispute and give a ruling, known as an “award”. Arbitration is an alternative to Court, with the advantages being speed, flexibility and confidentiality.

Collaborative law

Each party can instruct a collaboratively trained solicitor to assist them in a number of 4-way meetings (office or Teams based) to try and secure an agreed outcome. The cornerstone of collaboration is the agreement not to apply to the court, but instead to agree a settlement out of court.

By adopting one or a combination of the above dispute resolution options, separating parties will often find an agreed outcome and avoid the emotional and financial cost of contested court proceedings and of losing ownership of the arrangements for their financial future or the arrangements for the future care of their children.

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.