How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Family Mediation Collaborative Law Arbitration
Family courts are full to bursting. Top family law judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, says families need to find other ways to settle disputes. But is this realistic? “Yes,” says Joanne Houston of Just Family Law. “Out of court settlements provide solutions specially tailored to your family’s needs. You’ll save time and money, and you’ll be able to move forward amicably with your ex.”


The simplest approach is to negotiate directly with your ex although of course this isn’t always possible. If you’re able to discuss matters between you please make sure you take advice from an expert family lawyer . You need to know what you’re entitled to and how to protect:

  • yourself
  • your property and money
  • the children.

See my recent blog Financial settlement on divorce – How to get the best one for you

But if DIY is not for you, what are the options? Your solicitor can advise you of the most suitable route for you.

Leave it to the lawyers

Perhaps you’ll decide to negotiate with your ex through your solicitor. Because this in many ways remains the norm in relationship breakdown. Your solicitor will represent you and support you and will help you achieve your goals. You’ll be able to rely on their professional experience to communicate on your behalf with your ex’s solicitors. And you can attend roundtable meetings and your solicitor will represent you.


Mediation is a fast, low cost solution where you are both directly in charge of the outcome. What does a mediator do? He or she will help you identify the issues between you and help you reach an agreement. If you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation. But please take legal advice alongside the mediation process. This is vital because the mediator can’t advise you of your rights. Which mediator to chose? Your solicitor will be able to recommend the most suitable mediator for your case.

Hybrid mediation

You both attend mediation and you take your solicitors along – helpful if there’s conflict between you, because the presence of solicitors will keep things objective. Your solicitor will even be able to speak on your behalf. Hybrid is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

Collaborative law

A specially trained collaborative lawyer can help you reach an agreement tailored to your, and your family’s, individual needs. But how does this work? You and your solicitor, and your ex and their solicitor, all sign a Participation Agreement. This states you commit to reaching an out of court settlement. And if you don’t reach an agreement, your solicitor won’t be able to represent you in court – an incentive to finding a solution! What is the collaborative process? Your solicitor will be at your side to advise, support and speak for you at a series of roundtable meetings. And other experts can help if necessary. These include:

  • independent financial advisor
  • family consultant
  • child specialist
  • accountant

See my recent blog What is Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative law is a constructive process and you and your ex remain in control of it.


Arbitration is a relatively new option in family law but provides several strong advantages. But what’s an arbitrator? An arbitrator is a family lawyer – perhaps even a judge – with special training. You and your ex both agree to be bound by their determination. The arbitrator can look at all the issues – money and property and children. Or they can narrow it down to just one question such as where the children are to live. They’re also trained to listen to children. Arbitration is more flexible than court as you decide the venue and the timing. And it’s less formal – you can even ask for it to be conducted in writing.

Consent order

An arbitration provides you with a binding determination. But if you reach agreement through another avenue you’ll need the protection of a consent order sealed by the court. Your solicitor can help you with this. It’s a paper procedure and unlikely to involve a court hearing. But it’s vital because:

  • your ex will have to keep to what’s been agreed
  • you’ll be protected from future claims if eg you come into money.

See my recent blog How do I get a Consent Order

How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration Woman redhead natural portrait by dusdin on Wikimedia

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