Bishop & Sewell

The end of a relationship is rarely straightforward, but it does not have to be contentious. In many cases it is not necessary to go to court and there are a variety of methods to help you come to an agreement.

Sometimes matters can be dealt with by negotiations between solicitors. There are also ‘alternative dispute resolution’ methods available that are increasingly used to help reach an agreement.


In mediation separating spouses, partners or parents will sit down with an impartial mediator who will facilitate negotiations. The mediator does not impose an outcome but will help and support you to come to a resolution that you are both content with. The mediator may suggest that each party gets legal advice before finalising any agreement and possibly having it put into a binding court order. We have a team of mediators available to deal with both children and financial matters.

Private FDRs

In financial disputes on divorce, private Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearings are on the increase. Part of the court process on a financial claim involves a FDR hearing, but with ever increasing court backlogs the court process can be very slow with insufficient judicial time being allocated. The FDR hearing is a without prejudice hearing where each side will have their lawyer put forward their case and the judge will give an informal view as what they think the outcome will be if they were hearing the case at a final hearing. The FDR judge cannot impose a decision, only make recommendations, and encourage each side to negotiate a settlement.

The benefits of a private FDR are that you get to choose your ‘private judge’ who will be a specialist family lawyer or retired judge on a day of your choosing and you will have the judge available throughout the whole private FDR, usually over a whole day. If you have a court FDR you may only have a judge’s input for an hour or so. The majority of private FDRs result in an agreement saving the stress, uncertainty and cost of going to a final hearing.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law is a process where clients and their solicitors commit to working cooperatively to reach a fair solution without involving the court. These matters are dealt with in a number of roundtable meetings in comfortable settings with both solicitors working with their clients to try and reach a solution that is fair and works for the family. We have trained Collaborative Lawyers who will be happy to discuss these alternatives with you.


Arbitration is an option that is similar to the court process. It is similar to the court process. An independent arbitrator is agreed and appointed to adjudicate on any issues. While the arbitrator has to be paid for, the advantage is that it is a process that will be far quicker than going through the courts, is entirely private and the arbitrator can deal with discrete issues.

Not all cases are suitable for alternative dispute resolution and litigation may be needed to achieve a fair outcome, but the alternatives should always be considered.

Next Steps

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, please email or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to our Family team.

Alternatives to Court Solicitors