What are the options for resolving family issues on divorce?

More than 60,000 family law cases ended up in Court in 2022 alone and there continues to be more demand than the system can comfortably manage, with many families waiting for months for a Court date. These delays can be frustrating, with long waits causing additional stress at a time that is already often fraught with emotion, and prevents people from being able to properly move on from their relationships. Wherever possible, Non-Court options for resolving family issues on divorce should be a consideration for couples, something that the UK Government is keen to encourage.

For couples that are separating, there are more options available to help you come to an agreement than you may realise. There is no one best option and it really depends on your situation and your relationship. Some will require more support from a family lawyer than others, but whichever one you choose it’s always best to get legal advice at key points in the process, including at the very beginning.

Below is a summary of main options available to you – a good family lawyer will be able to talk all the options over with you to help you understand which one might be right for you.

Negotiate an agreement between yourselves

To many, this might seem like the most simple and cost effective option. It can work well where the decision to separate is mutual and there are no major disputes. However, the divorce process is still complex and to ensure whatever agreement you come to is legally binding, you will both need to get some legal advice. If communication is good and there is a level of trust between you, then negotiating all or some issues between you could work for you.

One Couple, One Lawyer

This is a comparatively new process, which allows you to instruct a lawyer to represent both of you as a couple. That one solicitor will advise you through the process of coming to an agreement. Although not suitable for every situation, if the separation is mutual and animosity is low, it could work for you. It could be a more cost effective option as you will share a legal team and may help to reduce conflict when compared to appointing your own lawyers. A good family lawyer will always talk to each of you separately before engaging in the process to ensure that the process is suitable for you.

Family mediation

Talking about your issues is often the best way to resolve them, but it can be incredibly difficult when emotions are running high. When there are a lot of decisions to make it can seem overwhelming. An expert family mediator can help you work through the challenges so you can make decisions together through constructive communication. They are impartial experts, and will work with you to agree what the best outcomes are for your family. They cannot offer legal advice so you should get legal advice at key points in the process.

Hybrid family mediation

This is a form of mediation where other experts are brought into the process to help deal with any complexities, which could include lawyers, accountants, social workers, or medical professionals. This model allows a mediator to speak to each person separately, allowing you both additional time and space to review proposals. A common option is for your mediator to bring in both of your lawyers to help advise and support the process. In more complex cases, this will allow both of you to be better informed to ensure you are working towards a fair and workable outcome.

Negotiations through a family lawyer

This option can be a constructive approach when resolving family issues on divorce where there are some key issues to resolve and you both would like to appoint a lawyer who will focus on your individual interests as well as those of your family as a whole. You will be supported along the way and they will negotiate on your behalf. A good family lawyer will reduce conflict wherever possible and negotiations will typically be approached on the basis of what would happen if the case went to Court – although you are free to come to an agreement that works for both of you and therefore, may be more creative than what a Court may impose. As you are both involved in the negotiations, you are likely to be happier with the agreement that you come to and therefore it may be longer lasting.

Private family arbitration

For this option, you and your ex will appoint an independent arbitrator who will help you resolve financial, property and potentially child arrangement disputes by making a decision for you. This decision will be final and legally binding, and is often the approach taken when you have been unable to reach an agreement through lawyer negotiations. The benefit of this approach is that it tends to be more cost-effective and quicker than going to Court and can help you resolve issues that you are really stuck on. The possible results are also more flexible than going to Court, and will be kept fully confidential. Although this should be considered an alternative to going to Court, if issues are very complex or one partner is withholding information then this approach may not be suitable.

Going to Court

If other options have not worked for you to reach an agreement or you are not getting any engagement from your ex then you can issue a Court application. In some situations, or if there are urgent issues to sort out then a Court application can be done straight away without the need to attempt to come to an agreement through a Non-Court option. The Court will set a formal timetable for when things need to be done and if the Court process goes through to a final hearing, a Judge will make a final decision for you, based on what they believe to be fair.

Talk to us

We have an experienced team who can talk you through all your options to help you come to an agreement with your ex. Wherever possible, and if appropriate, we will help you to reach an agreement through a Non-Court option. If you would like any advice about your individual circumstances, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our highly experienced family law team.

We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.