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Alternatives to Court

The breakdown of a relationship can be emotionally challenging, and the prospect of court proceedings can make matters worse. There is often a knock-on effect for the wider family on both sides too.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the court process that can help avoid conflict and distress. Our specialist Family Law team is ideally placed to advise you during this stressful time.

Negotiation and agreement on a voluntary basis

Before starting court proceedings, our experienced Family Law team will try to resolve the finances and any children-related matters on a voluntary and amicable basis, if appropriate. For this to work, both you and your partner must be prepared to take a reasonable approach and potentially make compromises.

It’s not always possible to reach one, but if a financial agreement is reached through negotiation, it’s important it’s drawn up into a formal document known as a consent order. This will then need formal approval by the court so it can be considered full, final and binding.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law is another way to try and resolve family disputes without the pressures of potential court proceedings. It involves face-to-face meetings between you and your partner in an attempt to find agreeable ways forward without litigation. Collaborative law involves you both being represented by your appointed solicitor, and our expert family lawyers can advise you through the process.

The benefits of the collaborative approach include:

  • no courtroom animosity
  • the decision being yours, and not a judge’s
  • the agenda being set on the issues most relevant to you
  • proceedings are confidential and not ‘aired in public’
  • potentially being far less expensive
  • a lower emotional impact on you, children if you have any, and the wider family.


Mediation is essentially a discussion between you and your partner, with a third person present to guide and assist with that discussion – hopefully towards an agreement on the terms of your separation. It’s not designed to get you back together as a couple – merely to find and agree on a way forward that causes the least stress and expense.

Mediation itself doesn’t normally require a lawyer’s presence, but it’s advisable to speak with one beforehand about what mediation entails and what you’d like to achieve through it. If you prefer, you can have a solicitor present at the mediation – or introduce what’s known as ‘shuttle mediation’, where you remain in separate rooms and your appointed mediator goes back and forth between you.

As with collaborative law, it’s important to speak with your solicitor to ensure that any understanding and agreement is made formal, as your discussions and provisional agreements through mediation alone are not legally binding.


Arbitration involves appointing an arbitrator to make decisions about the arrangements for your children, and achieve resolution of any disagreements regarding finances. Both you and your partner need to agree to arbitration, and the decision reached through this process will be final and binding.

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