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Alternative ways of getting a divorce settlement during lockdown

It has been 11 weeks since the official COVID-19 lockdown began, and the doors of the family courts have remained firmly shut, leaving couples in the middle of a financial dispute in their divorce, in limbo.

Although the courts are slowly beginning to re-open, hearings will be limited and there are likely to be significant delays due to listing backlogs.

A recent press release from the Central Family Court  advocates using video platforms and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods instead of waiting for a court date, unless there is a good reason not to, for getting financial dispute matters heard and disputes settled.

The family courts are also on board, encouraging parties to consider ADR using video platforms such as Skype for Business, Zoom and Lifesize, all of which are perfect for hosting virtual mediation, virtual round table meetings and remote Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE’s).

ADR remains a powerful tool for concluding cases swiftly, allowing couples to move on with their lives and, although there is a cost, this is usually less than going to court, which can be crucial for many people in this time of economic uncertainty.

Linda Pope, family law expert at Miles & Partners Solicitors in London, urges couples not to delay resolving financial disputes as she explains the different forms of ADR available to couples at this time:

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Round Table Meetings – These are meetings that involve couples with their respective legal representatives with a shared aim of exploring ideas to resolve differences.

The team at Miles & Partners are advocates of this method and believe it can encourage dialogue and provide an opportunity to hear each other’s point of view. It can be highly effective, can be organised quickly and is a highly cost-effective method. Traditionally, the parties would be in the same room, but now these can be conducted remotely by video call.

Mediation – the mediator’s role as a neutral participant, is to help couples identify what the issues are, and to find a solution which traditionally came about in face-to-face discussions. Miles & Partners have a trained in mediator in our team and usually the meetings would take place in a neutral and safe environment, with discussions progressed at a pace that both parties are comfortable with.  In this new normal, the couple and mediator would be able to remain in their own homes while they discuss the case remotely.

With remote mediation the parties and mediator can conduct discussions through a computer or telephone app which in addition has the option for the parties and mediator to share documents, calculations and written proposals, or even to speak privately in separate break-out rooms. If parties are interested in finding a resolution, remote mediation is a viable option for dealing with disputes relating to finances or children.

Arbitration – As a result of many court dates having been vacated another route for couples to consider is arbitration, which can also be conducted remotely and is a form of ENE.

The advantage of this process is that it gives the couple the option to choose their ‘judge’ and to set their own timetable for decisions that fit with their own family’s circumstances.  With many cases having been pulled from the court list couples are at risk of duplicating costs, so arbitration can prove very cost-effective as well as giving a definite date for matters to be concluded.

To find out more about how remote ADR can help you progress your divorce settlement or other family law dispute, please contact Linda Pope on 020 7426 0400 or e-mail lp@milesandpartners.com.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Linda, Miles & Partners Solicitors, London

Linda Pope

Associate Solicitor

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