Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

Family law

Styles of Dispute Resolution

At Prettys, we are experienced in facilitating different methods of family dispute resolution from our offices. Here we look at the different options which are available.

Are there different methods of Dispute Resolution?

Yes.  A number of routes are available and it is important that you choose the most appropriate method for you, the circumstances of your case and the outcome you want.  Broadly they can be divided into two groups; approaches that use discussion such as Mediation Services, Round Table, Collaborative and Kitchen Table Working and more traditional methods of correspondence through solicitors and applications to the Court.  All are set out below:

Mediation:  this is where you and your partner meet with a legally trained mediator who will help you agree proposals for important matters such as finances and children. The mediator is neutral and so will not give legal advice to either party. Their role is to create the best environment for discussion and help you find solutions.   Each session usually last about 90 minutes and most couples need between 4 and 6 sessions. Each party can take background advice from their own solicitor about their legal position before and if necessary between mediations.  If a successful outcome is reached this is recorded by the mediator in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ which can then be converted into a legal agreement or order by a solicitor. This process can be very successful but some people feel vulnerable without the support of their own solicitor beside them in which case Round Table or Collaborative methods of resolution may be more appropriate.

Collaborative Working: this involves discussions in a Round Table setting in which the parties and their solicitors are present. To encourage agreement both parties and their solicitors sign a Participation Agreement, one aspect of which requires the parties to appoint a new solicitor if the discussion process breaks down.  Some people find the risk of having to start again with a new solicitor unsettling so they may be better suited to a Round Table approach in a Collaborative style where the Participation Agreement is not signed. For others, the requirement allows for maximum focus on making the process work.

Round Table Working: this is very flexible and allows for discussion in whatever format is needed to find a constructive and durable solution. This may be both parties and their solicitors working co-operatively, or a solicitor working with their client and the other party.  Round Table and Collaborative work can often involve other advisors or specialists who may be able to assist such as accountants, IFAs, social workers or family counsellors and can include other family members or children where appropriate. The advantage of this method is that it is not prescriptive and can take whatever form is necessary to help parties reach agreement on a wide range of issues.  Successful outcomes can then be converted to a legal agreement or order.        

Kitchen Table Working: this is where parties negotiate directly on specific matters with one or both of them receiving background advice and support from a solicitor. This approach works best where there can be constructive discussion between the two people direct; a fairly level playing field both from an emotional and financial perspective and a good enough level of trust on financial matters.  There needs to be an understanding of what has to be discussed and the benefit in stopping the discussion if it becomes too tense or destructive. If agreement is reached a solicitor can convert the outcome to a legal agreement or order.

Correspondence: you can seek to reach a solution by more traditional methods of negotiation and correspondence through a solicitor acting on your behalf.  If this is not successful you can try Round Table, Mediation or Collaborative working at any point. 

Application to the Court: this is usually the last resort and should be used only if: other approaches have failed; there is an issue of legal complexity; a reason for urgent action; or a better result is more likely with a Judge.  The court process can be time consuming, costly and lead to greater conflict. Unlike discussion methods that are designed to reach solutions on the issues that matter to you, the court process involves a Judge applying the law. The priorities that may be very important to you, in terms of outcome, may not be given the same weight. 

How do I choose which method is right for me?

This will depend on the issues, the level of emotion and the outcome you seek.  Discussion usually provides a better chance of finding flexible and creative solutions than more traditional methods; allowing you to focus on issues that are important to you.  It also provides better long term outcomes and helps you preserve the best possible relationship for the future which can be important in a family context.  Application to the Court is usually the last resort or used for very specific reasons. Talking Works our dispute resolution service has been specifically designed to help you evaluate your options and make this important decision. Talk to us to find out more.

What should I do if I need family dispute resolution services?

Get in touch with Prettys. We work with clients in the Ipswich and Chelmsford areas and across East Anglia. You can either contact the Family Team by calling 01473 232121, email us here or leave a message for us to call you back


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