With the family courts continuing to experience significant backlogs and a greater number of clients recognising the benefits of avoiding our adversarial court system, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is increasingly attractive to those wishing to resolve matters as swiftly and amicably as possible.
At Morrisons, we assist many of our clients to reach agreement through negotiations, and those negotiations can be alongside a court process – but these days there are other ways too.
The ADR options below can offer guidance on a particular point of issue, freeing up the parties to go back to their negotiations (via solicitors or through mediation) or, where the parties are unable to reach agreement, it can provide a better process and an overall decision on the case, which will be binding on the parties.
Early Neutral Evaluation (“ENE”)
In this process, the parties ask a senior barrister or judge to give an opinion on the issues in dispute.
ENE can be sought on discrete issues, for example how inherited or pre-marital assets should be treated. It can also cover the full spectrum of issues in a case.
The expert instructed will assess the evidence presented and advise what they believe a court might decide. Its not binding but will assist the parties to reach settlement and can often avoid the cost and stress of litigation.
Once again, a senior barrister or judge is selected by the parties to consider the issues in dispute but unlike ENE, arbitration will result in a binding award which is recognised by the family court and can be converted into a court order.
With arbitration, the parties can decide the pace, timing and venue of the proceedings offering a much more convenient and comfortable experience than is available in our overloaded court system these days.
While court proceedings follow a rigid formula, the ADR process is entirely bespoke. The parties can agree if matters can be dealt with “paper-only” (although nowadays everything tends to be dealt with via email of course), what documents are required and when, and whether there needs to be an in person meeting. Where the parties can’t agree matters along the way the whole thing can be dealt with by the arbitrator – even the choice of an arbitrator itself can be handed over to the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, and they can be as involved as necessary to make the process work.
At Morrisons we have experience with all ADR options and work with our clients to find the best way to resolve their issues.
If you would like more information about Alternative Dispute Resolution options regarding finances on divorce or children issues, or family law matters generally, please contact Anne McAllister in our family law team on 020 8971 1080 or by email [email protected]