Resolving disputes differently

Jennifer peebles portrait.

Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823


Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is now a well-established mechanism for resolving issues in families, as well as in other aspects of life and business.

The family courts and the government have long encouraged people to take the ADR route, rather than incur the delays, cost and pressures that come with the judicial process. While ADR isn’t suitable in every situation, there is recognition that more use could be made of it; more couples could explore it as a way of agreeing post-separation arrangements, for example.

Even greater emphasis will be placed on ADR following changes to the family court rules that come into force at the end of this month. From April 29th, the second tranche of amendments will see a number of provisions introduced that aim to encourage a ‘non-court’ route in cases involving children and/or financial arrangements.   

These include:

  1. A new definition of ‘Non-Court Dispute Resolution’ (NCDR) that extends beyond mediation, to include arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party, and collaborative law.
  2. The parties will need to complete a form setting out their views on using NCDR to resolve their issues.
  3. The court will be able to use the timetabling of proceedings to encourage NCDR.
  4. The court can consider a party’s failure to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) or NCDR as a conduct matter when it comes to deciding costs orders in financial remedy proceedings.
  5. Certain exemptions from the requirement to attend a MIAM will be modified or removed.

While NCDR isn’t being made mandatory, the amended family court rules are a strong continuation of the momentum towards steering families away from the courtroom. Delays in the judicial system have been well reported and provide impetus to reduce the number of cases queuing up to be heard. However, backlogs are not the only reason people are being encouraged to resolve their disputes elsewhere. As family lawyers who help clients find more constructive ways of resolving their issues than the courts can offer, we know that people and families stand to benefit in many ways from ADR: greater control over decisions about their future; more privacy; flexibility; creative solutions. In some cases, processes like mediation and collaborative law can actually improve relationships between former partners, as they’re encouraged to jointly design the arrangements for themselves and for their children and when years of co-parenting is on the horizon, that has to be a good thing.

For advice about your separation or divorce, or to speak to us about ways of resolving issues with a former partner, contact us on or call on 01264 353411.

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