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Divorce law blog

Dispute Resolution Week - what is it all about?

25/11/2015   By: Edward Heaton

Dispute Resolution Week - what is it all about?

With Resolution’s annual Family Dispute Resolution Week well underway and events taking place across the country to raise awareness of Dispute Resolution, it is perhaps time to pause and revisit the basics. With the strap line “There is a better way to separate”, what is it actually all about?

Resolution

With divorce ranking only second to bereavement in terms of stress levels, the impact upon individuals and their children and loved ones cannot be understated.

Resolution consists of around 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals who are committed to the “constructive resolution of family disputes” and to following a Code of Practice that “promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems”.  What does this mean in practice?  It means that its members are committed to encouraging solutions that “consider the needs of the whole family - and in particular the best interests of children”.

Options

With any form of dispute, there will usually be a number of different ways in which a resolution may be achieved, often with the fall back of litigation and a court-determined outcome.

Family disputes are no different.  With the courts struggling to cope with caseloads, the significant reduction in the availability of legal aid and the Government encouraging potential litigants to explore out of court settlements, never has it been more important to understand what the options are.  Here are just three that are worth considering …

Collaborative law

Collaborative law involves each party appointing a lawyer with a view to discussions then taking place over the course of a series of “four way meetings” involving both the parties and their respective lawyers. It is a process which is designed to minimise hostility and encourage communication, and is dependent upon the parties being honest and able to park their own partisan view in their search for a solution which is fair for everybody.  It enables greater creativity in identifying solutions through constructive discussion about what might work in practice.

Mediation

Mediation involves the parties to a dispute engaging in discussion under the guidance of an independent mediator, whose role is not to advise but to facilitate discussions, provide information and, if a proposed settlement is reached, record the terms of that settlement to enable the parties to take advice. As with Collaborative law, the process affords the parties greater scope for creativity and, ultimately, greater control over their own destinies. Again, it is reliant upon both parties willing to engage honestly and constructively, not being weighed down by a sense of entitlement.  Apart from the obvious benefits of helping parties to reach an agreement by themselves, mediation has the added attraction of usually being one of the most cost effective ways of resolving issues.

Arbitration

The newest of the three options in family law, arbitration is perhaps the nearest of the three to the court process.  It involves the parties to a dispute engaging a third party to make a binding decision for them.  Unlike the court process, however, the parties can choose both the arbitrator and the issues to be determined, and can work closely with the arbitrator at a pace that suits all involved.  This provides greater flexibility and cost effectiveness.

Further information about the above processes can be found at http://www.divorce.co.uk/divorce-approaches.

Ed Heaton
Family solicitor, Collaborative lawyer and Family Mediator.

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