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23/02/2021

Alternatives to Court Proceedings

Jill Roberts - Colour

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to a great number of changes for almost everyone, affecting all aspects of our daily lives.  The Courts are no exception to this and have had to adapt to the current guidelines produced by the Government.  This has inevitably had an impact regarding Court Hearings going ahead, both in terms of restrictions and judicial/staff illness.

Hearings are still going ahead where possible, via remote Hearings (video/telephone) or in person where this is unavoidable.  However, the family courts are currently giving priority to urgent Hearings such as Care Proceedings or Non-Molestation/Occupation Injunctions or Children Hearings.  This has a particular impact on Financial Hearings and there has often been long delays in applications being issued and getting Court Hearings listed for Financial Remedy Hearings. 

Given the current difficulties with the Courts, the family law team at Thursfields Solicitors are very experienced in advising as to the best approach to take and can suggest proactive alternatives to try and progress/resolve your matter.

Mediation

As an alternative to issuing Court Proceedings, parties may want to consider mediation to try and resolve matters.  Mediation does require both parties consent and co-operation.  Both parties will be invited to attend meetings together with a mediator (currently via video conferencing) who will try and assist the parties to reach understandings and agreements.  Parties can continue to receive legal advise whilst in the mediation process to get guidance on any agreements reached.

Round Table Meetings

This is where the parties and their legal representatives arrange a meeting to discuss the issues and try and find a way forward.  These can currently be facilitated via video conferencing such as Zoom or Teams. 

Arbitration

As an alternative to issuing Court Proceedings, parties can consider whether they wish to use arbitration as a way of resolving matters.  This is where both parties agree to use a third party to act as a Judge (arbitrator) to decide matters for them and the decision of that third party will be binding upon them and subsequently applied to be made into an enforceable Court Order.

The advantages to this are that parties have more control over the process as they can agree between them who shall be the arbitrator and they can set their own timetable, speeding the process up. 

Private FDR Hearings

This is where parties agree a third party to act as Judge at a Hearing, where they will be given an indication of how that third party would deal with matters, if at a Final Hearing.  This indication can then assist the parties to try and come to agreements themselves but is not binding upon the parties. 

These can be used before Proceedings are issued, where the parties are in negotiations and need some assistance.  Or these can be used alongside Court Proceedings, if for example there is a significant delay in the Court listing the matter for a FDR Hearing and the parties wish to try and resolve matters sooner.

We hope the above is helpful and our family law team at Thursfields Solicitors are also always on hand should you need assistance, should matters break down.  Our team is here to offer a sympathetic, supportive and approachable person at the end of the phone to offer advice.  We are still very much operating and here to meet your needs.  We are able to facilitate Zoom, Facetime or telephone conferencing should you wish to do so.

We are also in daily contact with the Courts as to how matters are progressing and how Hearings are being conducted away from the Court setting.  We have all the facilities needed to accommodate these. We are able to facilitate all of your needs at this difficult time.

For further advice please call us on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email info@thursfields.co.uk

Jill Roberts - Colour

Jill Roberts,

Associate Chartered Legal Executive, Family Department

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