When couples separate, there are often issues that have to be sorted out and disputes can arise. Whether the problem is financial or in relation to property or childcare arrangements, there are a number of options for you and your former partner to resolve the issue.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the courts have stopped dealing with all but the most urgent business. This means that clients are not able to bring non-urgent disputes to court for a decision by a judge. When the courts start to reopen it is anticipated that there will be a significant backlog of business and this will mean delay for many people who have disputes with former partners. Fiona Rasmusen, Partner and Head of Family Law, explains the other options available for resolving disputes at this time.
1. Kitchen table
Although it doesn’t have to be at a kitchen table, this is where you and your former partner sit down together to negotiate an agreement. Depending on the nature of the relationship breakdown, this is sometimes possible and has the advantage of saving on legal fees and it’s likely that your relationship can remain more amicable. However, you should always take some legal advice and even if you can reach an agreement this way it’s still wise to engage a solicitor to draw up a formal legal agreement.
This method involves both parties sitting down together to discuss the issues in the presence of a neutral mediator. The mediator will work to guide a constructive discussion, so it’s more likely that the parties can reach an agreement. Again, it’s advisable that you take separate legal advice throughout this process so you’re clear what your rights are, and you should not sign any agreement without having legal advice.
3. Collaborative Law
In this process each party engages their own solicitor, who will be trained in collaborative law.
All four people then have a series of meetings and work together to reach a settlement. Both parties and their solicitors sign up to the process before starting and agree not to raise court proceedings. This process is less likely to result in a total breakdown of the relationship, which is important if you have children together. It can also be quicker and cheaper.
4. Negotiations through solicitors
This is the most common way that disputes are dealt with. Each party engages their own solicitor and they negotiate an agreement on the issues between them. The advantage is that each party has legal advice, so are fully aware of their options. However, depending on the complexity this process can be lengthy and can become expensive.
Instead of going to court an arbitrator is appointed and each party gets the chance to present their case to the arbitrator who then makes a decision. A decision made by an arbitrator is binding. The advantages of arbitration are that you can choose your arbitrator and you and your former partner can control the process, which is 100% confidential.
6. Court litigation
This would normally be another method commonly used to resolve disputes. However, because of delays caused by the lockdown, it is problematic at the moment.
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