The court is currently trying to find new ways to encourage resolution without a final contested hearing. One way that they have suggested doing this is by arranging for the applicant to meet with a mediator before proceedings are issued, to consider if mediation is more appropriate than going to court.
In some cases, mediation is not appropriate or possible at that stage and proceedings are issued. Where proceedings cannot be resolved without a final hearing, the court is considering ‘settlement conferences’, at which a judge, other than the one hearing the case, meets the parties to encourage them to agree an outcome for the child, and/or to narrow the issues with a view to avoiding or shortening a length final hearing. Settlement conferences are intended as a less adversarial and more collaborative approach to reaching decisions. The approach is voluntary for all potential participants and without prejudice to the court proceedings. This is not yet being offered in the Hertfordshire/Essex/London areas.
As an alternative, Nockolds Solicitors is able to offer a meeting chaired by our experience family solicitor and mediator, Zen Thompson, at a date and place chosen by the parties. At these meetings each party and their lawyer can meet to narrow the issues to try and avoid or shorten a lengthy final hearing. The cost of the meeting would be much less than any final hearing and can be a very effective way to resolve issues. The meeting is voluntary for all participants and without prejudice to the court proceedings. For more information on this process or to arrange a meeting, please contact Zen Thompson on 01279 712553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.