ADR should come before courts, say experts

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services such as mediation and arbitration should be a part of any discussion about divorce for separating couples, family law experts say as part of Good Divorce Week.

Earlier this year Irwin Mitchell polled 1,000 divorcees about their experience of getting divorced, and whether their relationship had ended amicably, in a bid to see how widely-known ADR was.

The survey revealed that fewer than half of divorcees remain friends following a split, while 52% have misgivings about the entire divorce process.

Over a third (37%) said divorce was more expensive than they expected while 77% found their divorce proceedings stressful. Almost a third (31%) thought the divorce might have cost less if they’d been more amicable towards their ex.

Crucially, a third regretted not using ADR options, such as mediation and arbitration services, for their relationship breakdown, while 35% weren’t offered ADR as an alternative way of resolving their divorce at all.

Reports also suggest that more children than ever before are now being caught up in divorce disputes, prompting organisations like Resolution to bring awareness to “good divorce” through it’s Good Divorce Week awareness campaign. Latest figures released by the Family Court have also recorded the highest ever numbers of children involved in private law applications, with some 90,000 children involved in legal processes in England and Wales in the last year alone.

Following Resolution’s Good Divorce Week this year, family law specialists at Irwin Mitchell commented that ADR should be the first stop for separating couples – far before the courts are involved.

Ros Bever, Director of Legal Services (Family) at Irwin Mitchell said:

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how ADR, like mediation and arbitration, could be the way forward for the courts and the family legal system as a whole – and it’s something we’d like to see happen.

ADR offers a much more bespoke experience for separating couples and can really help to tone down any animosity that the courts can unfortunately cause, whether that’s from court dates being delayed or people not feeling like they’ve been listened to.

The family courts are even encouraging these approaches themselves, with talk of compulsory ADR and the mediation vouchers trial announced earlier this year. With no-fault divorce being introduced next year as well, it’s all pointing to the tide turning on how couples can divorce amicably.

We need family law practitioners to collectively raise awareness of these other options for couples to make sure they have every option available to them if they want a chance at keeping things friendly after they’ve separated.”

Three quarters of respondents said it’s especially important to keep negotiations cordial if children are involved, and looking back, 40% admitted they have regrets about the childcare arrangements they agreed.

The research found four in 10 respondents put their children’s welfare at the top of their priority list when going through a divorce.

Bever continued:

When children are involved in a divorce, it can be a very upsetting time of upheaval for them – which is exactly why the focus should be on them throughout the process, and why often couples would benefit from ADR at the first instance.

Using a different process such as mediation or arbitration can take some of the pressure off the people going through the divorce. It fosters an environment of working together and can get rid of some of the unnecessary animosity.

And it can help them maintain a friendship during – and sometimes after – the papers are all finalised, which is especially vital when children are involved.

The reality is that people have options and choices, and they should really know all about them and understand them before launching into a divorce or separation.”

The full report, “Divorce – Let’s do it differently” can be accessed here.

 

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