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What is alternative dispute resolution and why it could work for you

Believe it or not, whilst it absolutely probably doesn’t feel like it, if your relationship has ended and you are separating now, whatever your circumstances, you are fortunate to be doing so at a time when there are so many processes open to you to try and help ensure that your separation and the legal untangling from your relationship is dealt with in a humane, amicable and constructive manner.

The days where every case was bitterly and corrosively fought in court are long since gone. This is probably just as well, as the hugely underfunded court service no longer has the ability to constructively and effectively deal with your situation and divorce.

There are several dispute resolution mechanisms that you can choose, together with your former partner, to try and ensure that matters are resolved swiftly and effectively with minimal time and costs. You should both consider the following:


This is an excellent process which enables two parties who can speak to each other, on a level playing field, hold discussions to reach an agreement. The skill of a good mediator is that they can facilitate conversation and head off any of those difficult points which parties sometimes find themselves where it is not actually what they are saying that is causing a log jam, but the emotion behind it that is causing difficulties.

A mediator does not take sides or advise you as to the law, but helps you come to a constructive agreement that suits you both. A good mediator is also an excellent family lawyer who knows what the law will do and can provide guidance when needed and will prevent you coming to a settlement which has no longevity or which a Judge would never approve.

Mediation is without prejudice – meaning that anything that is discussed is mediation can never be referred to outside the mediation process. Mediation is particularly effective when children are involved as it helps the parties come to an agreement that will make co-parenting more effective.

Everyone likes to be in control of their own life and mediation allows for that as you broker the deal that is best for you. In mediation you can broker a deal that suits you both without being do bogged down in what the law says.

It would be wise to have a solicitor in the background so that solicitor can tell you the law and tell you what is and is not possible so you can negotiate in mediation within that framework. Mediation may mean that you are able to settle your dispute in one session or may be more.

Mediation works best when both parties “lay their cards on the table” and are negotiating as equals.

If your relationship had been blighted by domestic abuse, narcissism or control, then mediation may not be an effective tool for you.


Collaborative law is a great process where, with a specifically trained collaborative lawyer, you and that lawyer, together with your former partner and their collaborative lawyer, will work together, in a series of four-way meetings, to constructively come to an agreement. Whilst the correct legal solution is paramount, your collaborative solicitors will work in a non-positional way to help you both try and reach an accord. This option is effective and has a high degree of satisfaction from those who have participated in it.

Solicitor Negotiation

This can be viewed as “collaborative lite” where solicitors do their best to negotiate constructively, but often without the four-way meetings, to come to a resolution that suits you best.

This option is also highly effective, and one often undertaken.


This is a brilliant option for you if your positions have become polarised or you have been partially successful in agreeing a settlement in mediation but there are other points outstanding, or you simply want the bespoke benefits of an out of course process which still leads to a swift and final determination.

Arbitration is effectively “private law”: the arbitrator has all the powers of a High Court Judge and will determine your situation impartially pursuant to the law and decide that is binding upon you both. The benefits of arbitration, aside from its swiftness and cost effectiveness, are that you can choose who the arbitrator is. This is a joint decision, but it does mean that you get an expert. You might not like the arbitrator’s final decision, but at least you know he or she has the expertise to provide that decision. Arbitration also fits to your diary. The hearings etc. are fixed to your calendar and your timeline. This is a considerable advantage over the court, with its long delays and inflexible court fixtures.

At Rayden Solicitors we offer all the services listed above, please contact us and one of our solicitors would be happy to speak to you about them.

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