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Alternatives to court

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 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 – 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 following:

Private hearings

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.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law is a good option for you and your ex-partner if you are committed to working together to reach a settlement or agreement, and wish to avoid an acrimonious and lengthy court process.

In a series of meetings, you and your ex meet in the same room with your respective collaborative lawyers. Everything is discussed openly and honestly with a view to resolving issues and reaching an amicable agreement.


Mediation can be a fast and effective way to reach an amicable solution. You meet with a mediator who works with you both to keep communication channels open, listening to both sides of the argument.

The mediator always acts impartially – they won’t give legal advice and can’t impose a decision without both parties’ agreement. However, because mediation meetings are confidential, they offer a safe environment in which to air and resolve issues.

Mediation can help you reach a dignified agreement while keeping acrimony and costs to a minimum.

We can offer mediation services or recommend suitable and qualified mediators. It normally takes between three and six mediation sessions to reach an agreement – some couples may need longer, while others settle sooner.

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Our family law experience

Frequently asked questions

Most separated couples meet the mediator together around the table. However, it is possible for the mediator to meet you separately. This is called shuttle mediation. Many mediators now offer remote mediation, via videoconferencing, avoiding the need to be in the same room.

You don’t have to go to mediation before issuing a petition for divorce. If, however, you want to issue an application for the financial issues to be resolved, or an application for an order relating to your children, then it will usually be necessary for you to first attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before being able to make the application.

The purpose of the MIAM is to see if mediation could be used to resolve your difficulties rather than going straight to the court. There are some limited exceptions to this requirement, which we will discuss with you if appropriate.

If your ex-partner refuses to attend mediation, then the mediator may conclude that mediation isn’t appropriate in your case. This can make court proceedings more likely. We can work with you to resolve your dispute in other ways without going to court, and will discuss your options with you.

Contact us

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