Non-court dispute resolution (NCDR) refers to the different ways people can resolve disputes without going to court.  A combination of NCDR processes can be used during your dispute, or they can be used alongside litigation. Whilst court proceedings are usually the last resort, in some cases they may be necessary. You might have to consider issuing a court application if the other party refuses to use NCDR or if there are third parties involved, safeguarding issues or concerns over disclosure and hidden assets.  Once however the other party are engaging you can consider using NCDR alongside the litigation to try and reach an early resolution.

Dispute Resolution Services

We can take the lead or support you in the background. Whatever route you choose to take we will guide and support you every step of the way.

For a detailed overview of all litigation and non-court dispute resolution services we offer a download or you can read about our services below.

Guide to dispute resolution

Mediators are trained professionals who will meet with you and the other party to help you resolve the issues between you, whether in relation to financial matters, child arrangements or both. We will support you in the background and look after your best interests, giving you peace of mind whilst you benefit from conducting your own negotiations.

Mediators are neutral and cannot advise you individually. A mediator will assess suitability for mediation before inviting you to start sessions together. This is called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). At the MIAM the mediator will assess suitability for mediation as well as advise on other non-court dispute resolution processes.

The mediator may also facilitate shuttle mediation whereby the mediator spends time with each party on their own.

How many mediation sessions are needed will depend on the issues to resolve and the complexity of your case. If an agreement is reached it will be recorded by the mediator in a document called a ‘memorandum of understanding’. If you want to proceed with the terms in the memorandum of understanding we will prepare a consent order or contract to formalise the terms of your agreement.

Conversations, any communication and information about possible options, proposals and the terms of any agreement are on a ‘without prejudice’ and ‘confidential’ basis which means that they cannot be referred to in court or at arbitration (except by order of the court, or agreement or where the law imposes an over-riding obligation of disclosure). The financial information provided during mediation will be provided on an ‘open’ basis which means it can be disclosed in any subsequent court proceedings or arbitration.

Even in the most amicable of cases we recommend a lawyer is instructed so you can be sure that your agreement will be legally binding and peace of mind that you haven’t missed anything important that could prove to be a costly mistake.

Until an agreement has been approved by the court financial claims will remain open against one another. To ensure that the agreement is binding, and claims are dismissed it will need to be formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court.

Hybrid mediation gives you confidentiality to explore options with the mediator without commitment whilst having the benefit of instant legal advice from us. It can therefore be an effective alternative if you do not feel comfortable being in the same room as the other party or if your case involves complex or difficult issues.

The hybrid mediator can facilitate shuttle mediation whereby the mediator spends time with you and the other party on their own. The mediator will also be able to bring in other family professionals and experts such as accountants, pension experts, financial advisors and independent social workers.

How many sessions are needed will depend on the complexity of your case. With everyone in one place and provided all necessary information has been provided in advance it may be possible to achieve a settlement in one day.Hybrid mediation gives you confidentiality to explore options with the mediator without commitment whilst having the benefit of instant legal advice from us. It can therefore be an effective alternative if you do not feel comfortable being in the same room as the other party or if your case involves complex or difficult issues.

Child-inclusive mediation provides opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard directly during the process of mediation. This helps them to feel respected and listened to and, at their request, to assist parents or carers to receive, understand and take account of the child's messages and/or suggestions regarding decisions and arrangements for them.

The purpose of child-inclusive mediation is to give children a ‘voice’ rather than a ‘choice’. The decision making process will always remain with the adults.

Child inclusive mediation is available for young people aged 10 and over.

The mediator must remain impartial in a meeting with a child or young person and must remain neutral as to the outcome of mediation. The mediator does not represent the child or act as the child’s advocate. The meeting with the children is confidential and they decide how their views and opinions are relayed back. Mediators only report back what the child or young person has asked the mediator specifically to convey.

We are collaboratively trained lawyers and can meet with the other party and their registered collaborative lawyer to work through the issues between you, whether in relation to financial matters, child arrangements or both.

Other family professionals and experts such as accountants, pension experts, financial advisors, family consultants and independent social workers can also be part of your collaborative team. If help is needed on a particular issue or you find you are at an impasse, we can ask a barrister to provide an evaluation of the situation, or you can use arbitration to resolve the issue. Arbitration allows you to appoint an arbitrator of your choice who can provide a binding outcome in respect of any issues you need to resolve.

As part of the process, you will sign an agreement to commit to resolving the issues without going to court. This agreement will also prevent us from representing you in court or at arbitration if the collaborative process breaks down. This means everyone is committed to finding a solution by agreement rather than through court proceedings.

How long it takes and how many meetings are needed will depend on the complexity of your case. You will be in control of the agenda and timetable. With us and other professionals by your side throughout it may be possible in some cases to achieve a settlement after a couple of meetings or in more complicated cases it may need four or five meetings.

Conversations, any communication and information about possible options, proposals and the terms of any agreement are on a ‘without prejudice’ and ‘confidential’ basis which means that they cannot be referred to in court or at arbitration (except by order of the court, or agreement or where the law imposes an over-riding obligation of disclosure). The financial information provided during the collaborative process will be provided on an ‘open’ basis which means it can be disclosed in any subsequent court proceedings or arbitration.

Until an agreement has been approved by the court financial claims will remain open against one another. To ensure that the agreement is binding, and claims are dismissed it will need to be formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court.

Lawyer Led Negotiations

We can take the lead negotiating on your behalf. There are several ways we can do this depending on what you feel comfortable with. We can exchange phone calls and correspondence with the other party or their lawyer or arrange face to face or virtual meetings or use a combination of these options. We can also help you with an early neutral evaluation, private financial dispute resolution appointments and arbitration.

Guide to dispute resolution

If you are comfortable negotiating your own agreement, we will support and advise you in the background and guide you through the process of making your agreement legally binding. We can also give you an opinion on the terms of your settlement.

The law isn’t always easy to understand and nor is the procedure to give legal effect to an agreement. Even in the most amicable of cases we recommend a lawyer is instructed so you can be sure that your agreement will be legally binding and peace of mind that you haven’t missed anything important that could prove to be a costly mistake.

Until an agreement has been approved by the court, financial claims will remain open against one another. To ensure that the agreement is binding, and claims are dismissed it will need to be formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court.

This involves the joint instruction of an experienced barrister to give you an early indication of the likely outcome if the matter was to be decided by the court. EXPAND TO READ MORE You can ask for an opinion on your entire case or a discreet issue. The aim is to get a clear indication at an early stage to avoid the time and costs of having to go to court. The opinion can be given at a meeting attended by you and the other party or if preferred a written opinion can be provided.

Conversations, any communication and information about possible options, proposals and the terms of any agreement are on a ‘without prejudice’ and ‘confidential’ basis which means that they cannot be referred to in court or at arbitration (except by order of the court, or agreement or where the law imposes an over-riding obligation of disclosure). The financial information provided will be provided on an ‘open’ basis which means it can be disclosed in any subsequent court proceedings or arbitration.

Until an agreement has been approved by the court financial claims will remain open against one another. To ensure that the agreement is binding, and claims are dismissed it will need to be formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court.

By agreement you select an arbitrator to make a binding decision on the dispute between you, whether in relation to financial matters, child arrangements or both.

Arbitration is a direct alternative to court and will allow you to resolve a family dispute without the delay and sometimes added expense of the court process. It allows you to engage in a flexible process with complete confidentiality and the knowledge that a decision will be made.

Arbitration may not be suitable in certain circumstances, for example if evidence from a third party is needed, or there is a risk of hidden assets.

At the conclusion of the arbitration the arbitrator makes a decision. The decision will include written reasons, much like a decision (judgement) made by the court. The decision is then formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court in the usual way.

By agreement you select a judge or experienced barrister to give an indication of the likely outcome if the matter was to be decided by the court. The aim is to get an early and clear indication to avoid the time and costs of having to continue in the court process.  A private dispute resolution appointment can be arranged on a date and at a venue to suit you and will be much quicker than waiting for a court ordered appointment.

A private dispute resolution appointment can take place alongside existing court proceedings or can be agreed voluntarily.  You can also agree to attend a private dispute resolution appointment before arbitration.

Conversations, any communication and information about possible options, proposals and the terms of any agreement are on a ‘without prejudice’ and ‘confidential’ basis which means that they cannot be referred to in court or at arbitration (except by order of the court, or agreement or where the law imposes an over-riding obligation of disclosure).  The financial information provided will be provided on an ‘open’ basis which means it can be disclosed in any subsequent court proceedings or arbitration.

Until an agreement has been approved by the court financial claims will remain open against one another.  To ensure that the agreement is binding, and claims are dismissed it will need to be formalised in a consent order or contract and filed with the court.

A way of working that allows a single legal professional to provide advice to a separating couple who want to manage their separation together.

We are expert litigators and whilst court proceedings are usually the last resort we will issue if we need the court’s assistance to protect you. The court’s assistance may be necessary if there is domestic abuse, third parties involved or concerns over disclosure and hidden assets. We have a trusted network of barristers we work closely with so you can be reassured you have the right expertise throughout.

Unless you meet one of the permitted circumstances before issuing an application you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). If court proceedings are necessary, we will continue to review your options and if appropriate we adjourn the court proceedings to attempt alternative dispute resolution options.

Supporting you every step of the way

We know how hard it can be to navigate moments that are emotionally challenging and that is why we don’t just focus on the legal work. We make the wellbeing of you and your children a priority throughout and have partnered with other people we know and trust and who are as good in their fields as we are in ours.

Visit our support hub for information about coaching, wellbeing and support services.

Insights

Read the latest articles and commentary from Watson Morris Family Law or explore our full insights

Whatever your situation, wherever you are, we’re here for you

We work with clients across the UK and who live and work around the world. Whatever your financial status, or geographical location we provide the support you need.

Please note we do not offer legal aid. For a free no obligation call to discuss how we can help you:

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