Non-Court Dispute Resolution

The Family Procedure (Amendment No 2) Rules 2023 (SI 2023/1324) will officially be implemented from 29 April 2024.

A new Family Procedure Rule will allow the court to order parties to file and serve a form stating their views on non-court dispute resolution to resolve contested issues within the proceedings.

A definition of Non-Court Dispute Resolution (“NCDR”) has been widened under Family Procedure Rule 2.3(1)(b) to mean “methods of resolving a dispute other than through the court process, including but not limited to mediation, arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party (such as a private FDR process) and collaborative law”.

Whilst an additional rule will be amended to impose a statutory requirement that when parties attend a MIAM that the MIAM provider will indicate to the parties attending which forms on NCDR may be suitable as a tool of resolving the dispute and why and how to proceed with the NCDR in question.

An amended Family Procedure Rule 3.4(1A) will also provide the timetabling of proceedings to allow sufficient times for NCDR steps to be taken, the Court have the power to adjourn the proceedings to “encourage parties” to undertake a form on NCDR. The agreement of the parties will no longer be required.

The Court will consider, as a matter of conduct, when determining whether to make an Order for costs in financial remedy proceedings, any failure of a party to the proceedings to attend MIAM or an NCDR. There will also be amendments or modifications to remove certain exemptions from the requirement to attend an MIAM and provide for the Court to consider whether a validly claimed MIAM exemption is no longer applicable.

When it comes to making arrangements regarding children or finances after separation, couples are increasingly choosing to avoid court proceedings and are instead turning to non-court dispute resolution. This Non-Court Dispute Resolution has advantages over court proceedings in that it is tailored to the families’ needs, takes place at their chosen pace and is confidential (unlike Court based financial proceedings).

Mediation

Mediation involves discussion facilitated by a neutral mediator with a view to reaching an agreement. The mediator will hold an initial meeting to ensure the situation is appropriate for mediation and to discuss how best to move things forward. The process is confidential, and the mediator will be entirely independent from the couple and their respective solicitors. Whilst the mediator can facilitate discussions between separated couples or parents and encourage parties to reach a mutual agreement

Private FDR

A solicitor, barrister or retired Judge can be instructed on a joint basis by a separated couple to provide an indication regarding issues in dispute. The indication provided to the parties can assist in negotiating an overall agreement. This process is most commonly used in cases involving disagreements in relation to finances. Even if court proceedings have commenced, a private FDR can still occur, as it is often a quicker way to achieve a resolution.  

Arbitration

An arbitrator can be jointly instructed by a couple to make a decision in respect of their dispute. This is another effective and timely method to achieving a resolution with flexibility as to the venue. The arbitrator will determine what steps need to be taken and design timetable to suit the parties.

Streeter Marshall assists separating couples in achieving a reasonable outcome with less cost and distress. From our initial consultation we will discuss suitable methods to reach a resolution. If you require any further advice, please contact 0208 680 2638 to speak to one of our expert Family Lawyers.