The Ministry of Justice has carried out an open consultation and supports earlier resolution of private family law arrangements. One of the options considered is mandatory mediation. However, there are organisations such as Resolution that have warned against Government proposals which could see thousands of families forced into mediation, regardless of whether it is the best way forward for them.
One of the main advantages of mediation has always been that it is voluntary, participants attend because they want to not because they have been forced. Equally, at any stage of the mediation process if it is not working, for whatever reason, participants are free to choose to withdraw from the process and try alternative options to resolve the areas in dispute.
Resolution has stressed that:
“Mediation helps and will continue to help many families who choose to use it .But it is not right for everyone and should not be forced upon anyone. Other forms of out of court dispute resolution need to be considered and funded. Families should also be provided with access to early legal advice”.
At Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP we offer a range of out of court options as well as being able to provide advice and assistance if court is the most suitable option.
What are the alternative options?
- Dealing with matters yourself
- Child inclusive Mediation
- Hybrid Mediation
- Collaborative practice
- Round table meetings
- Private Financial Dispute Resolution hearings
- Early neutral evaluations
Why should alternative options be tried before proceeding to court?
- Financial Costs – issuing court proceedings will not be cheap for either person in a relationship that has broken down
- Delay – Courts are overwhelmed with cases, which means there may be considerable delays before your case is put before a judge for a hearing. In addition, there may be several hearings before your case is resolved by consent or determined by a Judge
- Emotional Costs – preparing responses for the court and for the other party in any proceedings and waiting for responses to be received is very emotionally challenging.
- Control – Once proceedings are issued both parties to the proceedings have limited control over what is prioritised and how the dispute is resolved.
- As a result of the above factors, the conflict between participants can increase, and this can in some cases then impact the emotional well being of a child or children as well as their own wellbeing.
Advantages of out of court options:
- Our of court options can often be more financial cost effective
- You agree with the other participant the timetable for resolving the disputes. This is often quicker than the court process and can be at times that suit your availability.
- Our of court options are often less formal than court
- Emotionally whilst any relationship breakdown is emotional, often participants that have used an out of court process to resolve the dispute, feel stronger when it concludes, as it has been conducted at a time and pace that suits them and their family’s needs and it impacts positively on the future relationship they may have with their former spouse/partner because they have been able to stop, look, consider, discuss and agree the way forward rather than a Judge imposing a decision on them.
- Participants are in control of the process. Participants will set the agenda to prioritise what is important and what the concerns are and how these can be addressed. Participants will each be able to set out what they hope for and they will each be able to set out what they hope for their child or children (which a court would not be able to do because that is not its role).
- Within out of court processes, participants can be signposted to organisations that may be able to assist. This can range from divorce coaches, therapists and counsellors to financial advisers and mortgage brokers. (These are just examples and not an exhaustive list). Collaboration with other professionals can be arranged and provided at the time that it is needed and in a way that the court may not be able to direct or authorise.