Alternative Dispute Resolution

Published: 14 November 2016

Author: Hayley Crossman-Shaw

Category: Blog

Avoid the expense and stress of a lengthy court case through effective dispute resolution.

As a law firm dedicated to providing an accessible, supportive service that works in the best interest of its clients, Burn and Co Solicitors have signed up to the Resolution (http://www.resolution.org.uk/) Code of Practice. This set of guidelines commits members to “resolving (family law) disputes in a non-confrontational way…designed to preserve people’s dignity and to encourage agreements.” But what does this mean in practice and does this approach only apply to family law?

You could consider three main forms of dispute resolution before resorting to a potentially lengthy and expensive court case. Not only can these options provide a conclusion with speed, discretion and often less stress than a court decision – they may also reduce the total costs.

Mediation

It is now a legal requirement that anyone wishing to go to family court must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This involves sitting down with your partner and a neutral mediator to decide on the issues that need to be resolved and if mediation is a suitable course of action. Rather than looking to keep couples together, mediation is there to help you decide how to end your relationship and move forward in a way that is best for you and your children.

In civil and commercial law, mediation can be a suitable choice in cases that involve personal injury, probate and estate contests or employment disputes, amongst others. As with family law, a judge may look at whether or not both parties were willing to engage in mediation or one of the other forms of dispute resolution when making a final decision in a court case.

In a Ministry of Justice survey (2014/15) 70% of claimants had contacted the other side to resolve their dispute – with 86% of those making specific money claims seeking out of court settlement (The Law Gazette 3rd Nov 2015) so there appears to be an appetite for reaching a conclusion before resorting to a court judgement.

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/claimants-want-to-avoid-court-but-still-shun-mediation-moj-poll/5051964.article

Collaborative Family Law Process

As opposed to meeting with a mediator, this process involves attending sessions where both parties are accompanied by a trained collaborative lawyer. Working with their lawyers, they try to reach agreement on what they want and how best to settle their differences for the benefit of the whole family. They have control of the process and work out how to share the assets and responsibilities - for the children for example - as they each go their separate ways.

You and your collaborative Solicitors sign an agreement which disqualifies them from representing you if the process breaks down. This means they are absolutely committed to helping you find the best solutions by agreement, rather than through conflict. Other independent and impartial professionals may also be included in the process - in a flexible and neutral way - as and when their support is needed.  You set the agenda about the things that matter most to you and your family and maintain contact between you throughout. This all means that you have the best chance of understanding each other and working together in a positive manner to reach an agreed outcome.

Claire Rutter, Head of Family at Burn & Co Solicitors is a trained Collaborative lawyer and would be happy to discuss this process with you.

Arbitration

If communication has broken down and both parties are unable to come to a conclusion then you may wish to consider this final alternative. Applicable to both family and civil law, arbitration collects evidence and opinion from both sides before an arbitrator – like a judge – gives a ruling. You agree at the outset to accept the award and the parties involved can choose their own tribunal with expertise in the issues raised and industry sector. As with any form of dispute resolution, advantages lie with smaller costs, quicker conclusions and a greater sense of control in proceedings.

If you wish to consider alternative forms of dispute resolution and require assistance going through the pros and cons, please contact Burn and Co Solicitors and we can talk you through your options.