Why Court isn’t the only option

Jennifer peebles portrait.

Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823

Email jpeebles@bsandi.co.uk

There has long been an expectation among divorcing couples that their relationship will become the subject of a bitter court battle. They take it that court is the place for the terms of their divorce to be fixed and where they will have to come face-to-face with each other – possibly for the first time in many months.

There is another way. The last few years have seen significant developments in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and family lawyers like us are keen to steer suitable cases in that direction. Not only can ADR avoid the need for a court hearing, it can be a far more positive experience for those involved.

Mediation is one form of ADR that offers real advantages over the adversarial court process. For couples that agree to give it a go (it has to be something both are prepared to try) it can enable frank discussions about the financial and practical aspects of their relationship and how they will each move on. The mediator, who is a specially trained independent third party, works with the couple to help them focus on what needs to be decided and ultimately to reach agreement. Unlike a Judge, a mediator won’t impose terms. That is a really important aspect of mediation. The couple is empowered to reach their own agreement, and so there is often a sense of satisfaction – and a commitment to sticking to the deal - that comes from that.

There can also be a real sense of collaboration. While it’s common for each party to dig their heels in on certain points, negotiation and a willingness to make concessions are key features of mediation. Some couples even find that at the end of the process, they are on better terms with each other than they were at the start. They see the other’s perspective. We often find that everything can be wrapped up far more quickly than it would be through the courts.

Mediation isn’t for everyone, however. Where there has been domestic abuse, it’s recognised that the court will be the appropriate route or if there is ongoing acrimony that means two people will simply not be able (or are not willing) to cooperate with one another in the way mediation requires, it is likely to be a futile exercise.

However where mediation could work for you, our advice is to try it. In fact, it has to have been explored before the court process can begin. That is because it’s recognised as a positive way of keeping family disputes out of the court system and away from the financial and emotional challenges that that can involve.

To speak to us about separation, divorce and the process involved, please contact us on family@bsandi.co.uk or 01264 353411.

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