What’s So Alternative About Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Divorce?

By Francesca Davey

Senior Associate

ADR really means using any means of resolving a dispute without using the Court, and this can be used for almost all disputes, whether about finances or child arrangements. There is a growing range of options to use in family cases and our experience is that when you use the right tool, the job gets done much quicker, more cost-effectively and with a good chance of remaining amicable and limiting damage from months of conflict.

A recently commissioned survey of 1,000 couples who had been through divorce found:

  • 25% said they wish they’d used ADR instead
  • 39% said they didn’t know about ADR at the time
  • 31% thought things would have been cheaper if they’d been friendlier
  • 41% wished they were left with a friendlier relationship with their ex
  • Legal costs and the length of time taken were also a problem for over 25% of the couples

There are ADR options which allow you to negotiate together, such as mediation, hybrid mediation, roundtable meetings or collaborative law, depending on the level of involvement you need from solicitors and other professionals to provide advice. A private FDR, also known as an Early Neutral Evaluation, allows a private Judge to look at the issues and give clear guidance about how it should be resolved, but without being able to impose any conclusion. Finally, Arbitration allows a private Judge, called an arbitrator, to hear the evidence and make a final and binding decision. Sometimes you just need one form of ADR, sometimes a combination. It is always worth exploring all the options to work out which will suit your circumstances best.

In all cases, any agreement or determination reached can be turned into an enforceable court order by consent, and without having to go through the months and associated expense of Court proceedings.

The legal principles which govern what is a fair outcome will be the same whether you are in Court or ADR, and the advice you will get is the same. The process and formats of a private FDR or an arbitration are also much like the Court process, but with the flexibility of time and location to make it much more convenient, and with the Judge likely to give your case more attention because they will only have one case allocated, rather than a full public list.

The biggest problem with ADR? – persuading both parties to do it. It can only go ahead by agreement on both sides. Sometimes people feel suspicious that if it takes place outside a courtroom, it won’t be fair. This misconception costs couples a lot in extended legal fees and months of time wasted in waiting for their case to work through the court system which could otherwise be avoided.

Those who use ADR say that the main benefits are: retaining control over the process; reduced costs; and maintaining co-operation with an ex.

We always look at the best options specifically for you and your case and will always recommend the route that is best suited to minimising costs and conflict where possible.

For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.