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Changes to Family Law Rules Prioritise Dispute Resolution

by Ridley & Hall in Divorce, Family & Matrimonial, Vicky Medd posted May 2, 2024.
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On 29th April 2024, new Family Proceedings Rules came into effect, placing a strong emphasis on dispute resolution.

Addressing Delays in Family Courts

The family courts, particularly in the South of England, have been grappling with significant delays. The new rules aim to alleviate this issue by diverting cases away from court proceedings whenever possible.

Enhanced Role of Mediators

Under the new rules, mediators are empowered to provide more comprehensive information to clients during the initial mediation meeting (known as a MIAM).

Judicial Consideration of  Dispute Resolution

Judges are now required to carefully consider whether cases would benefit from alternative dispute resolution methods. Participants in family proceedings may be asked to express their views on using non-court dispute resolution options.

Impact on Costs

Clients’ participation in court dispute resolution alternatives can influence cost decisions, particularly concerning the payment of one party’s costs in proceedings involving children and finances.

Forms of Dispute Resolution

Various forms of dispute resolution are available, including mediation, early neutral evaluation, private FDRs, arbitration, Resolution Together, collaborative law, and round table meetings.

  1. Mediation – where a couple attend with an independent mediator to try and resolve the issues in dispute. This works really well where a couple are committed to resolving the disputes that exist between them.  It can be significantly cheaper than court, and significantly quicker.
  2. Early neutral evaluation – used particularly in finance cases, where an expert family lawyer is instructed by both parties to give their view as to the likely outcome.
  3. Private FDRs – very similar to (b) but involves the expert giving their opinion on which financial settlement they think a court is likely to appoint.
  4. Arbitration – where a private arbitrator is appointed to act as a private judge and both parties agree to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator
  5. Resolution Together – in limited circumstances both parties to a divorce/separation can instruct one divorce lawyer to advise them.
  6. Collaborative law – where both parties instruct individual solicitors to try and negotiate a settlement. There are a series of meetings with lawyers and clients to facilitate finding a solution to the dispute.
  7. Round table meetings – very similar to (f) above, but the solicitors are not collaboratively trained.

Benefits of Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution methods typically result in significantly lower costs and shorter resolution times compared to court proceedings.

Exceptions to Dispute Resolution

While dispute resolution is generally recommended, there are cases where it may not be suitable. Clients are encouraged to consult with our experienced family lawyers at Ridley & Hall.

Ridley & Hall’s Expertise in Dispute Resolution

Ridley & Hall offer a range of dispute resolution services, including mediation, collaborative law, Resolution Together, arbitration, and early neutral evaluation. Contact us today.

Vicky Medd

Vicky Medd – Solicitor & Partner



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