Family Dispute Resolution - A Real Alternative to Court for Divorcing Couples

Children and money are often the main source of stress and concern when a couple find themselves in the trauma and tension of divorce.

Catia Tavares, as Head of Family Law and Wills and Probate at Sinels, says ‘I have been at Sinels for nearly 9 years and during this time I have witnessed many marriages end in the very formal and somewhat intimidating environment of the court.

It is my experience that taking an alternative route to court where there is a financial dispute, can mean all parties walk away feeling the process was fair and reasonable, proving a more useful passage to the next chapter of their life’.

Here is the technical part - Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), introduced in England 20 years ago, seeks to provide couples with an opportunity to identify and resolve financial disputes. The idea is to reduce the emotional and financial burden of litigating in the family courts.

6 reasons why Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) could be for you

Peace of mind - An FDR involves the couple agreeing to meet on a ‘without prejudice’ basis in an informal setting – in other words the discussion cannot be disclosed in court later.

Knowledge is power – We seek the assistance of a judge (usually an experienced barrister from England), who will advise on how matters are likely to unfold should proceedings go to a trial. The assessment, which is non-binding, can be used as a basis for the couple to consider and negotiate a settlement.

Reassurance – Whilst clearly there are no guarantees of successful resolution, the evolution of FDRs show that the process works well. There is now best practice guidance from the UK to assist couples laying out the ground rules of any FDR.

Local availability – Whilst FDRs are not provided for in Jersey law, the Family Division can order a ‘stay’ (pause), in the court process, for the couple to attend a form of private FDR or directed mediation.

Objectivity – Of course it is a challenge to remain objective in such an emotionally charged situation, however, following a third party assessment and moving to a discussion process without concerns that it may be disclosed in court at a later date, should provide focus and direction so couples can consider the situation more objectively.

Cost effective – Whilst there is a cost to a private FDR process, this is likely to be minimal in comparison to the costs of a full trial. Even if a settlement is not reached, the process will unlikely be wasted, as it should identify the main issues in dispute and the areas where the couple need to concentrate their minds.

At Sinels we have experienced a 100% success rate

In our experience couples, as a consequence of attending a private FDR, have reached settlements out of court which was the desired outcome. Don’t take our word for it – listen to what one of our clients said;

‘Going to court can be intimidating even if you are represented. I felt much more comfortable, knowing that the process of the FDR was private and informal. Having an experienced mediator giving their assessment provided me with reassurance regarding advice and my position generally. I felt the process was fair and reasonable and Sinels guided me through everything excellently.’

If you need more information about this article or any legal advice please email catia.tavares@sinels.com or call Catia Tavares on +44 (0)1534 620500.