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Methods of resolving family conflicts and disputes

There are various options to consider when you are involved in a family dispute, whether you are going through a divorce/separation and want to sort out arrangements for your children or if you are trying to resolve financial matters.

Here is a quick guide to the different options available to you:

1)    Conversation – Negotiating your own agreement, with or without professional support, can be the cheapest way to a settlement and at first glance can seem the easiest.Having a private one-to-one conversation, albeit a telephone conversation or a face to face meeting, with your ex-partner without involving a third party. Any agreement you reach in relation to financial matters can then be drafted into a legally binding document by solicitors. As long as you and your ex-partner have disclosed your respective financial circumstances, your solicitor can advise you as to whether the agreement you have reached is fair.

2)    Mediation – Family mediation is a voluntary, confidential and privileged form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves the appointment of a neutral and impartial third party (the mediator) who helps the parties reach a negotiated solution to their dispute.Again you would still need to instruct a solicitor to formalise any agreement reached in relation to financial matters and advise on whether the agreement is fair.

3)    Negotiation – Usually you appoint a family lawyer who focuses on your interests and who negotiates with your ex-partner’s solicitor.Negotiations through solicitors can be either through telephone calls, correspondence or around the table meetings. The purpose of this is to try and reach an agreement with the help of solicitors so that the parties make a decision over the outcome of their case rather than the court telling them what the outcome will be.

4)    Arbitration – You and your ex-partner appoint an arbitrator, who will make a decision that will be final and binding between you. This can be in relation to financial matters, property disputes or a child related issue.The arbitration process is similar to a final hearing in court proceedings with the arbitrator presiding and making a final award or determination, which is contractually binding on the parties. The flexibility of arbitration and the fact that you will get a final decision much more quickly can make arbitration more cost-effective and desirable than going to court.

5)    Court proceedings – If an agreement cannot be reached through the above methods, an application can be sent to the court.The court will then direct a formal timetable. If the court process reaches what is called the Final Hearing, the court has broad discretion to reach a final decision and make a Court Order, based on what the judge thinks is fair. You can issue court proceedings yourself or instruct a solicitor to do it on your behalf.

If you would like some more information in relation to your options on divorce or separation, please contact our experienced family law team on 0113 322 9222 or by email at