Family Law and Non-Court Dispute Resolution: Key Revisions to the Family Procedure Rules

On 29 April 2024, significant revisions to the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) came into effect, introducing changes aimed at and supporting streamlining the resolution process for financial remedy and private law children cases. These revisions, particularly in Parts 3 and 28, reflect a progressive shift towards more efficient and effective family dispute resolution mechanisms, at a time when the Court remains overwhelmed with cases and parties typically experience significant delays and frustration.

Understanding Non-Court Dispute Resolution (NCDR)

At the heart of these amendments is the concept of Non-Court Dispute Resolution (NCDR), defined in r2.3(1)(b) as methods of resolving disputes outside of the traditional court process. Alternative dispute resolution methods have long been encouraged by the Court, and, indeed, two of the more common family law applications; for a financial remedy or a child arrangements order, require the parties to attend mediation prior to issuing an application at the Court (unless one of the limited exemptions applies). NCDR expands on mediation to now encompass and encourage other various non-court resolution approaches, including collaborative law, private financial dispute resolution and arbitration. These methods prioritise a co-operative, rather than adversarial, approach to resolving family disputes, thereby reducing the emotional and financial toll on the parties involved.

Key Changes in Part 3: Encouraging Alternative Dispute Resolution

Part 3 of the FPR has undergone substantial revision to emphasise the importance of NCDR. The new rules mandate that parties in both financial remedy and private law children cases must consider NCDR methods before engaging in court proceedings. This requirement is designed to:

  1. Promote Early Settlement: By encouraging parties to explore NCDR options early, the rules aim to foster an environment where disputes can be resolved more amicably and swiftly.
  2. Reduce Court Backlogs: With courts often overwhelmed by family law cases, these revisions seek to alleviate the burden on the judiciary, allowing judges to focus on cases that genuinely require court intervention.
  3. Improve Outcomes for Children: In private law children cases, minimising parental conflict through NCDR can lead to better outcomes for children, as parents are encouraged to work more collaboratively in their best interests.

Key Changes in Part 28: Cost Implications and Enforcement

Part 28 has been updated to reflect the changing landscape of family dispute resolution. The revised rules introduce significant changes regarding the cost implications and failure to engage in NCDR:

  1. Cost Sanctions for Non-Compliance: Parties who unreasonably refuse to engage in NCDR may face adverse cost orders. This serves as a powerful incentive for parties to seriously consider and participate in NCDR processes.
  2. Enforceability of NCDR Agreements: Agreements reached through NCDR methods can be converted into legally binding orders, providing certainty and finality to the parties involved, however, enforcement would still require the Court’s involvement.

The Importance and Impact of the New Rules

The amendments to Parts 3 and 28 of the FPR represent a shift in the approach to family law disputes in England and Wales. By prioritising NCDR, the new rules align with a broader trend towards alternative dispute resolution methods across the legal system.

Benefits of the New Rules Include:

  1. Cost-Effective Resolution: NCDR methods are generally more cost-effective than traditional court proceedings, making family justice more accessible.
  2. Timely Resolution: With court cases often subject to lengthy delays, NCDR offers a more expedient route to resolving disputes.
  3. Reduced Stress and Conflict: The collaborative nature of NCDR can reduce the adversarial tension typically associated with court battles, promoting a more amicable settlement process.
  4. Empowerment of Parties: NCDR empowers parties to have more control over the resolution of their disputes, which can foster a sense of ownership and satisfaction with the outcomes.

NDCR, however, is not right for every case and it is important to seek early advice on this.


The revisions to the Family Procedure Rules, particularly Parts 3 and 28, mark a significant advancement in the resolution of family law disputes. By mandating consideration of Non-Court Dispute Resolution methods, the rules not only aim to alleviate the burden on the courts but also promote more amicable, cost-effective, and timely settlements. These changes support a commitment to modernising family justice and improving the experiences and outcomes for families navigating the complexities, cost and stress of legal disputes.

Whilst many divorcing or separating couples assume that they will need the involvement of the Court in order to reach agreement on a financial division of the assets or in child matters, this is not the case for many of our clients. Matters can often be settled and resolved with the assistance of one of our solicitors, collaboratively trained solicitors or mediators, through discussion and negotiation, avoiding the delay, costs and emotional stress of Court.

If you are contemplating separation or divorce, or in need of assistance regarding your financial settlement or child arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of our family team, who will be happy to assist.