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How to Divorce Outside of Court

The Alternatives to Court Proceedings in Divorce.

Divorces are often perceived as an acrimonious battle in the courts, although the reality is that the vast majority of couples going through a divorce never step through the doors of a court.

With the costs, delays and stresses of the court process, a court application should be seen as a matter of last resort. With this in mind, what are the options available to couples looking to resolve matters outside of court?

One option for parties would be to attend mediation. The mediator cannot impose a decision on the parties, instead their role is to encourage discussions and to explore ways of settlement. The benefits of mediation include that the parties are able to choose their mediator, set the agenda for the meetings and move at a pace which is comfortable to them. Mediation is considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways of agreeing matters on a divorce, with the cost of the mediator usually being shared between the parties.

If an agreement can be reached through mediation, this is recorded into a heads of an agreement and whilst this is not legally binding itself, your solicitor would then be able to assist you in turning this into a legally binding document, if required.

A second option is for the parties to resolve matters through collaborative law. This is where the parties attend a series of four-way meetings with their lawyers and work together in deciding the necessary steps to resolve matters.

In collaborative law the parties would sign a participation agreement at the outset, to confirm they are committed to resolving matters outside of court. In fact, if the parties are unable to resolve matters through collaborative law, their lawyers can play no further part in the matter, meaning the parties would need to look at instructing alternative lawyers, should they wish to make a court application, adding an incentive to the parties agreeing matters outside of the court process.

A third option available to couples is arbitration. In arbitration the parties agree a suitably qualified person to adjudicate their dispute and sign an agreement to be bound by their decision. Whilst this is similar to the court process in many ways, arbitration allows couples to choose their arbitrator, leaving them assured that someone with the necessary specialism is dealing with their case. Arbitration also tends to be far more flexible than the court process, as it allows the parties to agree the appropriate steps to resolving matters, meaning it is often a far more efficient way of settling a dispute, which potentially may also save on costs.

Our team at Field Seymour Parkes specialise in out of court settlement, with Sue Baker being both a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer, and Michelle Mann, who is also collaboratively trained. All the solicitors in our family team are also members of Resolution, promoting a non-confrontational approach to resolving family matters.

If you wish to obtain advice as to what out of court resolution would be best in your circumstances, please contact our family team, who will be pleased to discuss your matter with you.