What is Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provides a variety of methods which can be used to resolve family disputes outside of going to Court. ADR aims to save parties time and money, reduce animosity between parties, as well as creating a more personalised outcome for families who are going through a stressful time, such as going through a divorce, dividing finances and assets, or child related issues.

What are the different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and what are the benefits of these?


Mediation is where an independent, neutral third party (the Mediator) facilitates discussions between the parties in order to help them achieve a voluntary agreement. Unlike a Judge or Arbitrator, the Mediator does not decide the outcome of the dispute, instead they help to promote understanding of the law, whilst helping to assist the parties in identifying their needs.

Mediation is voluntary however in certain situations this can be mandated by a Court as a step before proceeding to trial.

Like other types of ADR, Mediation has many benefits. The main benefit being that disputes can be solved a lot quicker, as appointments can normally be scheduled relatively quickly as opposed to lengthy Court waiting times. In addition to this, Mediation is generally less expensive than going to Court and also provides flexibility to the parties in terms of dates. Mediation encourages cooperation by both parties and therefore promotes communication helping to reduce animosity and improve the relationship which may have become strained.

Mediation - Blocks spelling out Mediation

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law involves both parties along with their respective legal representatives working together to reach a mutual agreement without going to Court.  This process is voluntary, and enables the parties to work together to address their concerns and find a personalised solution which works best for them both. Both parties and their representatives sign an agreement that commits you both to trying to resolve the issues without issuing Court proceedings. By signing this agreement, everyone must be 100% committed to finding the best solution by way of agreement as opposed to Court proceedings. Like Mediation, Collaborative Law is often more cost-effective than Court proceedings and promotes a faster resolution. Both of you will have your lawyer by your side throughout the process and so you will have their support and legal advice as you go. This may put the parties at ease and reduce stress and anxiety in tense situations, by having a somewhat familiar face by their side.

Besides your legal representative, you will have the opportunity to work with numerous specialists, i.e. an independent financial adviser, a family consultant, a child specialist or an accountant, who will provide you with help and advice regarding your situation whether that relates to finances or children etc whilst also offering emotional support if and when you need it. All these professionals will collectively make up your collaborative team.

Collaborative Law offers a constructive and holistic approach to resolving family disputes, emphasising mutual respect and cooperation from all parties.


Arbitration is a form of ADR in which parties submit their disagreement to a neutral third party known as an Arbitrator or Arbitration Panel. The Arbitrator reviews the parties dispute, listens to both side’s arguments, reviews evidence and then makes an informed decision. This decision hopes to resolve the dispute in a more cost effective and timely manner.

The appointed Arbitrator usually has expertise in the specific area in which the parties are disagreeing, ensuring the matter is dealt with fairly and reasonably. As well as this, Arbitration allows the parties to schedule their own hearings at their convenience making this a more flexible alternative to Court and accommodating to individual circumstances. In many cases, the decision in Arbitration is final and binding, providing parties with a clear resolution to their dispute without the need for Court intervention. The finality of Arbitration helps to provide the parties with closure with a view to them moving forward with their lives.

Arbitrations main goal is to provide a more efficient and flexible approach to family disputes as an alternative to the traditional Court process.

Early Neutral Evaluation

Early Neutral Evaluation involves a neutral third party evaluator who is typically trained in family law. The evaluator listens to the positions of both parties, assesses their strengths and weaknesses of each parties case and then provides a non-binding evaluation on the likely outcome if the case were to go to trial. Parties are likely to save themselves lots of time and money by choosing this route, as the evaluator will give the parties an inclination as to whether they have a strong case, and may also provide their suggestions for settlement. Sometimes, having an independent third party provide their opinion as to the outcome of the case can help parties find common ground and settle their differences without the need for going to Court. If the parties cannot agree and reach an agreement after they Early Neutral Evaluation process, they still retain the right to issue their matter in Court, or explore other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

If you are separating or divorcing and would like to discuss alternative methods of seeking an amicable outcome then call our team for advice.

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