Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the name given to various ways of resolving disputes other than by taking your case into court. This could be mediation, arbitration or collaborative practice. In family work, many solicitors are trained in some/all of these methods. ADR can help reach a constructive solution, often more quickly than in court. It is not appropriate in all cases. A family law specialist will be able to assist you in deciding if ADR is an appropriate option and you can search our member list for solicitors trained in the different forms of ADR.


In mediation, you and your spouse/partner will meet together with a mediator to try to work out a solution to the various issues. This can be dealing with dividing up assets and debts or sorting out a care plan for your children or both. The mediator will not take sides or give either of you legal advice although he/she will be able to explain the legal framework to you and help you understand how matters might be dealt with by the court. Mediation allows you and your former partner to work together to come up with solutions tailored to your particular circumstances. The mediator will record what has been agreed and after that has been done, your solicitor will be able to draw up the legally binding separation agreement. Mediation is voluntary. It relies on both parties acting with the utmost good faith toward one another. It is generally not appropriate in cases where there has been domestic abuse.


This involves referral of your case to a skilled, trained arbitrator. This person will hear both sides of the dispute and try to sort out a fair settlement. The arbitrator will issue a decision that is legally binding on you both. Both parties will generally have a solicitor present the case at arbitration.

The arbitrator can generally hear case and issue a decision more quickly than a court will be able to resolve a case.

Collaborative practice

Collaborative practice requires that both parties are represented by collaboratively trained lawyers. At the outset, everyone signs an agreement setting out the ground rules and agreeing that the case will not be taken into court by the collaborative lawyers. If the collaboration does not succeed, both parties will need new solicitors to proceed in court.

All of the discussions about settlement take place a round table meetings with both solicitors and clients present. Generally, any experts such as valuers or accountants are instructed jointly on a shared cost basis. Collaborative coaches can speak to parties individually to help with the emotional issues arising.

Collaborative practice allows couples to separate while ensuring the needs of the family are still met. It is particularly good in cases where there are children.

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