17 October 2019 marks Conflict Resolution Day. The concept of Conflict Resolution Day was conceived by the US based Association for Conflict Resolution, and it is a day on which to focus on the following:
- Promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict;
- Promote the use of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments and the legal system;
- Recognise the significant contributions of (peaceful) conflict resolvers;
As a family lawyer, these objectives really resonate with what my colleagues and I do in practice on a daily basis.
There are a number of ways to resolve disputes caused by relationship breakdown:
You and your former partner can negotiate together
Ending a relationship does not mean the communication has to or should stop there. You and your former partner can negotiate an agreement about finances and/or children arrangements between you. You can then simply ask solicitors to put the terms of your agreement into a Consent Order, which is needed in order to legally sever the financial ties between you and your former partner.
Negotiations through Solicitors
You and your former partner may wish to conduct voluntary financial disclosure through solicitors’ correspondence. Negotiations can then take place, either in correspondence or in a roundtable meeting with lawyers.
This offers the opportunity to find more creative and flexible solutions than would perhaps come out of full legal proceedings and also allows people to focus on the issues that are important to them. It can also be a less expensive way to resolve a dispute than fully contested Court proceedings.
This is frequently a very effective way forward, although both parties do have to be willing to participate in the procedure. The couple meet with a trained mediator to consider and discuss all of the available options on a “without prejudice” basis.
Mediation generally suits couples who wish to have the assistance of one independent person (the mediator) to help resolve issues between them. The mediator provides legal information, but not advice, so remains completely impartial and neutral. Rayden Solicitors Partner Priya Palanivel is a qualified Mediator.
Collaborative Law is where you, your former partner, and solicitors meet in a non-confrontational way to try and resolve all matters amicably.
The meetings will be a 4-way process involving both parties and their solicitors and everything is discussed in an open manner, with you and your former partner setting the agenda for those meetings. Collaborative Law suits people who wish to avoid the trauma and uncertainty of legal proceedings and wish to play a more proactive role in finding their own solutions.
Rayden Solicitors Partner Paula Butterworth is a trained Collaborative lawyer.
Arbitration is a very useful process that is worth considering if mediation or solicitor negotiations are not going to be successful. Arbitration is a process which has been around for a long time in other areas of law, but has only recently been introduced to Family Law matters.
Like mediation, both parties have to agree to go to arbitration. The arbitration itself can take many forms, but is likely to be either:-
- a “hearing” in front of an arbitrator with the parties (either in person or through solicitors/barristers) presenting your arguments orally; or
- it can be dealt with by the parties submitting written arguments to an arbitrator. This option is extremely cost effective and useful if the issues are discrete.
The arbitrator, who has all the powers of a High Court Judge, would then make a decision; which is binding upon both of you.
There are many benefits to arbitration, such as:
- You get to choose the arbitrator.
- The arbitrator is dedicated to your case and will have read all the papers and will be able to focus on your case and your case alone.
- Once started the process is very swift, particularly if the arbitrator makes a decision on the paperwork alone, so you are not waiting many months for a Court date.
- It is cheaper than going to Court because although Counsel may assist with the preparation of argument and paperwork, there does not necessarily need to be a hearing.
- The final decision is binding.
The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators has found that arbitration can be more cost effective than fully contested Court proceedings in the long run.
If it is not possible to resolve the financial issues by agreement, then a formal application will need to be made to the Court. Court proceedings are not to be feared for they are a good way, if negotiation does not resolve matters, to ensure some level of certainty and accountability.
Rayden Solicitors are family law specialists. If you are experiencing a dispute as a result of a relationship breakdown and require legal advice, please get in touch.