Nobody wants to end up in court. Everyone knows that going to court is expensive, slow and stressful. but sometimes it feels like the only option, if you reach the point where you and your former partner simply cannot agree.
There are other options but if you reach an impasse or deadlock it can feel as if court is the only option.
There is a relatively new alternative, family arbitration. This involves using a specialist family arbitrator who acts as a private judge. You and your ex need to agree to use the process, and you jointly instruct and pay for the arbitrator. The arbitrator makes a final decision and that is intended to be binding on everyone. The court is not involved, which means you do not need to comply with all the formalities of the court process. Arbitration is flexible and will be tailored precisely to the needs of your case.
I used arbitration recently for the first time. The husband and wife had negotiated for many months and had exchanged financial information. We had largely resolved how they would deal with their properties and pensions. The only outstanding issue was future maintenance payments. If we had applied to court this would trigger the process from scratch and they would have to go through the disclosure stage again, and start negotiating about properties and pensions again. We were able to tailor the arbitration to deal solely with the issue of maintenance. We set up the process very quickly – it was resolved from start to finish in a few weeks. We had the option of being able to do it all by paperwork but in the end decided a face-to-face meeting would be most productive. We set aside a day to deal with this and everyone met together with the arbitrator knowing a final decision would be made on that day (rather than applying to court where there could be three or even more separate hearings).
This meant we were able to streamline the process and cut out the unnecessary standard steps required by the court.
As with all of these options there are pros and cons. The key point is to make sure you consider every option throughout the process. Don’t feel you are tied into going to court or sticking with mediation or forced into collaborative law. There are a menu of approaches available. Sometimes it is matching the right process with the right point in time.
Please feel free to pick up the phone and speak with any of our solicitors about these issues.
Posted by Peter