Divorce procedures: the advantages of mediation, arbitration and collaborative law

Couple arguing about divorce settlement at Dutton Gregory, Hampshire

Mediation, arbitration and collaborative law allow couples to iron out their differences and reach a settlement without taking the matter to court. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Divorce can be a very troubling time for couples and families, especially when the case is brought into the court system. 

Many undergoing a separation process may not be aware of the alternatives available to those seeking to end their marriage. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative law are highly effective, amicable methods of solving various family disputes without taking the matter into legal proceedings. Mediation in particular has been increasing in popularity, with couples encouraged to take this route before submitting an application to court. 

Pauline Ellis, accredited Mediator and Senior Associate Solicitor at Dutton Gregory based in Hampshire, talks us through the benefits of these alternative procedures and how they work. 

Q: Can you describe each of these marriage resolution processes? 

Pauline Ellis at Dutton Gregory, Hampshire

Pauline Ellis is an Accredited Family Mediator and Solicitor with extensive experience in all aspects of family law including divorce, separation, post nuptial agreements and financial settlements. - Credit: LaHu Studios Ltd

A: Mediation is often a quicker, less stressful alternative to court proceedings and is completely voluntary. An accredited, neutral mediator helps both parties to reach an agreement on financial affairs, arrangements for children and any other conflicts that may arise. The mediator does not impose a solution, but ensures that any settlement is approved by both sides. 

If there are any specific issues that the couple cannot resolve, an arbitrator can examine the facts of the case before them and then make a decision. This decision is binding for both parties, and they must both respect the outcome.  

Collaborative law is a relatively new form of resolution, and is effectively a round table meeting with both parties and their solicitors present. This method allows couples to negotiate and receive advice at the same time, and is often much quicker than the court process. 

Q: What are the first steps for a couple looking to end their relationship via mediation? 

A: In terms of mediation, the first thing that couples need to do is get in touch with an accredited Mediator. An accredited Mediator is able to conduct the Mediation Information Assessment meeting with the parties individually. It involves the Mediator discussing the process with them, and assessing whether or not the case is suitable for mediation.

If the parties wish to participate in mediation, they would have a series of joint mediation sessions with each other and the Mediator, which can be done face-to-face or virtually. Many couples have recently been opting for the virtual option as it cuts down the time they have to take off work to attend the sessions.

Solicitor shaking hands with client at Dutton Gregory, Hampshire

Coming to a settlement in which both individuals have their voices heard is one major advantage of opting for mediation and other resolution methods. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q: What are the major benefits of these family law options? 

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A: It’s better for all parties involved to keep proceedings away from court, whatever the method of resolution that they opt for. It allows each person to have their voice heard, and to reach a settlement that they have deliberated between themselves. If the case goes to court and reaches a final hearing, the decision is taken out of the hands of the couple, as the judge has the final word.  

When a judge is reaching a decision, they look purely at the facts and figures involved, including the income needs of each party, their respective ages and whether there are any children, and then decide on the final outcome. These alternative routes offer a chance for the couple to make such decisions for themselves in a cost efficient, amicable manner.  

 To learn more about these marriage resolution methods, visit duttongregory.co.uk or call 01962 844333.