Family Mediation Week 2024
As Family Mediation Week launches on 22 January, separating couples are being urged to find out how to avoid courtroom confrontation to settle their financial and parenting arrangements.
January has always seen a dramatic rise in the number of couples separating, no doubt due to building pressures over the Christmas period and the already overwhelmed Courts receive even higher numbers of applications for divorce, financial remedies and child arrangements.
Family Mediation Week is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of family mediation which can help separating couples to agree what works for them whilst avoiding the court process with all the stress, delay and cost that comes with it.
Family mediation is a process where separating couples can work with a trained mediator to make decisions together about the future arrangements for their children and in relation to their finances. Deciding what will work best for your particular family circumstances often leads to far better outcomes than having a decision imposed on everyone by a Judge.
Not just mediation – Other forms of ADR
Even when a case is going through the court, the court must consider at every stage whether non-court dispute resolution is appropriate and will adjourn the case to enable ADR to take place.
So what is ADR? ADR is Alternative Dispute Resolution and refers to alternative ways to resolve a dispute other than court based litigation. In family cases, as well as mediation, this can include lawyers negotiating on your behalf, the collaborative process, Early Neutral Evaluation/private Financial Dispute Resolution hearings, and Arbitration.
Solicitor led negotiations are a good way of trying to reach an agreement via solicitors’ correspondence and telephone calls and can include a round table meeting. This approach is particularly helpful for those who wish to be supported by a professional during their negotiations.
In the collaborative process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and you all meet together to try and work things out. Everyone involved signs an agreement to try to resolve the issues without going to court and the lawyers are prevented from representing you in court. This commits everyone to trying to find a solution. Independent financial advisers, family consultants, child specialists, accountants and other professionals can also be involved in the collaborative process.
Early Neutral Evaluation/private FDR hearings are private hearings at which you and your legal representatives meet with a senior lawyer who has been given all of the relevant information relating to finances or child arrangements. The evaluator/private judge has no power to make or impose a decision on you but will consider the merits of each party’s preferred outcome and give an indication as to what a court is likely to decide. This process is confidential and often leads to an out of court agreement once the indication has been given.
In some cases negotiations may have been unsuccessful and a final decision is needed but you still wish to avoid court. In this situation Arbitration can be the solution. An arbitrator is appointed with the agreement of both parties and it is agreed that the arbitrator’s decision will be binding. Arbitration is often a much quicker alternative to Court and the arbitrator can be asked to make a decision on all issues or just one point in particular. Arbitrations can also be conducted on paper as well as in person.
Because all ADR processes are voluntary and used by agreement it may be the case that a combination of approaches is used.
Gardner Leader’s Family team are all experienced negotiators and we have collaboratively trained solicitors and a trained mediator, all of whom can help find solutions without the need for Court. Contact one of our Family experts here.