Our marriage is breaking down, is court the only option to reach a settlement on finances?
No, there are a few options for reaching a settlement and (unless there is an emergency, and urgent action is required) court is the last resort. We are here to help you find the best approach and solution to your dispute.
Often, on first attending the office a client often suggests the “kitchen table” discussion (where parties discuss matters between themselves without lawyers). Whilst it may appear the cheapest option at first glance, it may prove quite costly. This is due to this kind of agreement not having any legal effect and therefore all financial claims remaining open until remarriage or death. Equally if there is a breach by one party, there is no way of enforcing the agreement. This is why seeking legal advice and having our support is so important!
We can offer at least 4 options to negotiate a settlement:
- Mediation – This is undertaken with trained professionals, who are neutral and use their skills to help manage and facilitate discussions. We remain on hand to ensure you understand the legal implications of any offer and subsequent agreement.
- Collaborative Process – Over half of our team are qualified as Collaborative Lawyers and are happy to work with you towards reaching an agreement with the other party.. This is by way of roundtable discussions where everybody is present seek to resolve matters. This includes you, your lawyer, your partner/spouse and their lawyer, along with the relevant experts if necessary. An agenda is drawn up prior to the meeting to ensure that specific matters are dealt with and the Collaborative Lawyers work together to ensure that the best outcome is achieved for all which ensures your family is in good stead for the future. As part of the process, you sign an agreement not to take the matter to court
- Lawyer Led Negotiation – While mediation and collaborative discussions involve both parties becoming directly involved in the settlement discussions, this involves them taking a step back. Primarily, the settlement discussions take place with lawyers exchanging letters and phone calls with the other lawyer. Each lawyer will take time with their client to gather necessary information, draft correspondence and consider and propose settlement. Calls and letters are exchanged until agreement is reached, usually based on what the lawyers think a likely outcome would be if the matter went to court.
- Arbitration – The parties agree to appoint an independent third party who will consider the dispute and make a decision. This option provides more flexibility than the court, as it enables the parties to control the process and the timescale. It also allows for confidentiality which may be more important in certain circumstances.
If the parties chose to undertake arbitration they agree to be bound by both the rules of arbitration and the arbitrator’s award. If one party decides they do not like the award, the other party will be able to apply to the court for the award to be upheld.
If we have tried negotiations through one of these routes and cannot reach agreement, then you will have to attend court to reach an outcome. Even if a court application is commenced, it is still common for the matter to settle by agreement, before any judge makes a final decision.