Do I Have to Try and Agree Financial Arrangements With My Ex-Partner Out of Court?

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New rules about procedure in the Family Court came into force partly on 8 April 2024 and partly on 29 April 2024. They create significant changes about use of non-court dispute resolution. The aim is to encourage those separating to use less confrontational ways of resolving their disagreements about divide their money. This might include disagreements about capital, pensions, income or companies.

What is non-court dispute resolution?

Non-court dispute resolution includes mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and neutral evaluation by a third party. A specialist lawyer can point you towards suitable types of non-court dispute resolution and advise you on their suitability. They can do this alongside advising you on the division of assets a judge is likely to order in your case. Therefore you can still feel confident that you are entering into a fair outcome.

Mediation is usually used at an early stage because it requires the parties agreeing a final outcome between themselves.  A mediator will help the parties to discuss and agree issues if possible, but will not give them a prediction of what the court would order.

Neutral evaluation is helpful where one party is being unreasonable, as a specialist evaluator will give an ‘indication’ of what a court is likely to order. This is designed to put parties off continuing to build up legal costs arguing for an unrealistic outcome. However, sometimes an indication is still not enough to encourage the parties to agree.

Arbitration is the closest to court proceedings.  This involves an arbitrator making a final decision similar to that of a judge.

What are the benefits of non-court dispute resolution?

The courts often encourage non-court dispute resolution because it may be cheaper and less stressful. Litigating cases in court can sometimes cost more than the value of the assets being argued about.

What are the new rules?

From 29 April 2024 the court will be able to pause proceedings for parties to undertake ‘non-court dispute resolution’ whether they agree or not. This is intended to robustly encourage settlement outside of court.

In financial cases, there will also be a rule that not using non-court dispute resolution, without a good reason, may be a reason make a costs order. This would mean an order for one party to pay all or part of the other party’s costs. In other words, if you unreasonably fail to use non-court dispute resolution, you could have to pay at least some of the other party’s legal fees. This is different form the normal approach, that each party pays their own legal costs.

Dispute Resolution can be a positive step in that it may be possible to resolve matters more amicably and cost effectively than Court proceedings.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Kerrie Hall , Senior Solicitor specialising in Family Law.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.