Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a way of resolving disputes without the need to go to court.

It can take various forms, for example, mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, and roundtable meetings.

Court proceedings are slow. The Courts were backlogged pre-COVID and now there is a huge raft of cases waiting to be listed. It can often take over a year to have a final hearing listed.

Court proceedings can also be costly, not just in terms of financial cost, but also physically and mentally draining too.

Once the Court has been asked to adjudicate on a dispute, the Court can order what it thinks is the best solution, which does not always mean that you will agree with the Court’s ruling. Asking the Court to decide means that you have little or no control over the outcome. ADR allows input by you and will result in a decision which you have agreed to in all but arbitration.

No, but it is generally cheaper than going to Court. The costs between different forms of arbitration will vary and it will depend upon the facts of your case.


Most forms of ADR will have fixed costs and a timetable to resolve matters. That means you can budget for a resolution of your issues and you can both set timetables that suit you.

It depends on you, your former partner, and the issues you are facing.

Mediation is where you both work with an independent mediator who assists you both in reaching an agreement. The collaborative process is a series of meetings with you, your lawyer, your former partner, and their lawyer with the aim of trying to find a solution that works for you both. Read more about mediation here.

Arbitration is a more formal process where the dispute is resolved by way of a decision from an agreed arbitrator.

A private financial dispute resolution hearing is technically within Court proceedings but done privately, with a privately appointed Judge who is often a barrister or Queen’s Counsel. This often speeds up the Court process as it can be organised much more quickly that a Court financial dispute resolution hearing.

Arbitration is similar to Court proceedings. Paperwork setting out your case is filed, requests for further information or documents can be made by the other party or the arbitrator and once everything has been filed, the matter can proceed to a final hearing. The parties present their evidence and make submissions supporting their case. Afterwards the arbitrator decides the award or determination.

Family arbitration is different to mediation and collaborative law as the dispute is heard by a qualified arbitrator and a decision is given (called an award) in respect of money claims or determination if it relates to children. Any decision is binding on the parties. It is therefore different as other forms of ADR concentrate on helping the parties themselves reach a solution.

Arbitrators are agreed upon and chosen by the parties and their solicitors from the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA). Generally these are solicitors, barristers, or judges.

  • It is significantly quicker than contested Court proceedings. Often matters can be dealt with in weeks rather than the many months of waiting for court hearings.
  • The parties can choose their own specialist arbitrator, i.e. children or finances.
  • The parties can control the arbitration to their own needs, for example, to be dealt with on paper submissions only in segments or in one go and by phone, video conference, or in person
  • Speed. The arbitrator can deal with more than one issue at the time, e.g. finances and children as opposed to the courts who will deal with the matter separately, which again can mean lengthy delays and an increase in costs.
  • Continuity. One arbitrator will deal with the case from start to finish and is on hand to deal with preliminary issues as they arise. With the court process various hearings can be dealt with by different judges and there is no continuity. Availability for a final hearing is at the parties’ convenience and often can be listed within weeks, rather than the many months that it takes for the Court to list a matter.
  • Costs are generally less than Court proceedings. Most arbitrators will offer a fixed cost to review the papers, give directions, hear the case, and write up the award. The arbitrator’s costs are generally shared equally between the parties.

Speak to us and we can guide you through the various options open to you and advise you. For some people, a combination of mediation and ADR work is helpful. Parties can reach an agreement on most issues at mediation, but the parties can be “stuck” on a couple of other issues. An arbitrator can give a decision on these discreet points and the parties can then go back to mediation.

No. ADR needs both parties to consent to it and be committed to resolving issues without the need for court intervention.

Whilst an individual cannot be forced to agree to ADR, it is worth nothing that most lawyers will recommend it as a way of resolving matters rather than launching into Court proceedings. The Court also fully supports and encourages ADR at all stages. Once both parties fully understand the options, ADR is usually the agreed path for all parties.

Once an agreement has been reached it is important that it is incorporated into a Court order, which will then make it both binding and enforceable.

Talk to us. Make an appointment with one of our specialist family lawyers and we can guide you through the options available to you and advise you as to what is best for you.

Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment is the second Court hearing in Financial Provisional proceedings. The FDR is listed once all of the documents have been filed and the parties have a clear idea of what the assets are in the case.

Prior to an FDR each party must put forward proposals of settlement and these are open proposals so that the Judge can see each party’s offer of settlement.

At the FDR hearing, the Judge hears from each party who sets out their case and why they think their offer is the most appropriate. The Judge considers the two offers and the case in general and then will give an indication as to what he or she thinks is a reasonable settlement taking all the factors into account. This may be in respect of all of the settlement or it may be in relation to issues which the parties cannot agree on. An indication from the Judge is usually very helpful and most cases will settle at an FDR. Although the matter is listed for one hour of the Judge’s time, often the parties are at Court all day going backwards and forwards on negotiations and the Judge is there to assist on issues that may arise.

FDRs are an excellent way of trying to resolve matters without it going to a Final hearing and the Judge imposing a decision on the parties. When FDRs are listed through the Court, there are often half a dozen other FDRs all listed at the same time. This can mean a long wait to get before the Judge and it can sometimes mean that the Judge does not have as much time as he or she would like to be able to delve into the final details of the case.

It is often the case that you are waiting many months for the Court to list the matter for an FDR. It is not unusual for this to be in excess of four to six months following the First Appointment.

It is possible to have a Private FDR. The Courts encourage this and will do all they can to ensure the parties to settle outside of the Court system.

The parties need to agree that a Private FDR is the most appropriate and then a “Judge” needs to be found for the Private FDR. It does not have to be a Judge, although it often is. It could be a senior barrister, a Judge sitting outside of the Court system or a senior solicitor. The parties will generally meet the costs of the Judge equally and a venue, often at the barrister’s chambers, is agreed and booked. The matter then proceeds to an FDR as it would in Court.

The advantage of a Private FDR is that they take place much sooner than waiting for the Court to list the matter. The Judge will only have the one case in front of him or her that day and is able to spend more time assisting the parties in coming to an agreement. The papers will be sent to the Judge in advance and the Judge will have the time to read all of the papers and ask questions in advance of the FDR for example, if he or she requires any further information.

Private FDRs are becoming very popular and lawyers are seeing advantages to the clients of shortening the Court waiting lists.

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Would you like to know more?

For help and advice, talk to a member of our team. They can advise on the best options in your matter.

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