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Out of court dispute resolution

If you’re seeking an alternative to court, we can support you in using alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve your family law dispute.

We advocate the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to resolve family disputes. ADR methods, such as mediation, collaborative law and private hearings, may not only reduce your legal costs but, perhaps more importantly, allow you to feel involved in making vital decisions about your family’s future.

This can be especially important for separating parents – whether you’re trying to reach an agreement about finances or care of the children – working with our lawyers to achieve an out of court dispute resolution can be a more cost-effective and less stressful way of helping you move towards a successful co-parenting relationship.

Our lawyers will talk through your options at your initial meeting and advise on which methods are best suited to your circumstances. We may recommend one or more of the alternative dispute resolution options listed below.

Collaborative family law is a confidential and voluntary solution for separating couples.  It avoids solicitor-led correspondence and an acrimonious and lengthy court process. Instead it focuses on enabling couples to reach agreement efficiently and constructively with the help of their collaboratively trained lawyers. This takes place by way of meetings with both parties and their lawyers either in person or virtually by video platform. The focus is on discussing matters openly and honestly with both parties’ needs and those of any children being paramount. The lawyers’ role is to guide and advise on the law as part of the process in an open and constructive way, with full transparency. Not only is it more cost effective than court proceedings, but it is much quicker. Agreement is often reached within one to four meetings, depending on the complexities. The collaborative law process is particularly suited to those who appreciate the need for legal advice and lawyer involvement, but do not want to engage in a litigious and costly process. It is a good alternative when mediation might be unsuitable, perhaps because of an imbalance of power between individuals. It means that you are in control of the outcome and it will enable you to find a solution that works for everyone, which is important if you have children. It is rare for the process to break down. In those circumstances, both lawyers must withdraw and the parties must instruct new lawyers. For this reason, everyone has a vested interest in ensuring that an agreement is reached.
We can provide mediation services to resolve your family disputes. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Camilla Hooper.
Private hearings can take one of two forms. You can attend a non-binding settlement hearing known as early neutral evaluation (ENE) or a private financial dispute resolution (FDR). Alternatively, you can opt for arbitration which results in an outcome binding upon you both.

Non-binding settlements

At an ENE or FDR hearing, you and your ex-partner, together with your lawyers, present your respective cases to a private ‘judge’ - an experienced family lawyer or retired judge who is hired for the day to assist with your case. The judge then gives their opinion on how a court would decide your case. This opinion won’t bind either of you but, in our experience, can help you move towards resolution. Given the pressures on the court system, we regularly recommend private FDRs to clients to ensure the dedicated attention of the judge, in an environment better suited to reaching a settlement. We can host private FDRs or ENEs at either our London or Tunbridge Wells office.


In arbitration, the appointed arbitrator – sitting as the judge – will hear evidence from both of you, as if you were in court, and make a final decision. This will be binding upon you. Arbitration is equivalent to the court process but offers the ability to select your judge, the location and how the hearing will proceed. Where it normally takes between six and nine months for the court to list a final hearing, we can arrange arbitration in a matter of weeks. This can result in a significant costs saving, while providing certainty for you much more quickly. Arbitration is suitable for financial disputes as well as disagreements about child arrangements. It can also be used if you can’t agree about a specific issue.

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If you have a question or need advice, please let us know how we can help.