The judgment from Sir James Munby, the president of the Family Division, in the case of S v S is good news for separating couples and their solicitors in terms of supporting alternative ways of reaching settlements rather than court proceedings.

In this case, the parties chose to use arbitration in order to reach a financial settlement and asked the court to approve the arbitral award they received so that it became binding. The President said that such an award is a single magnetic factor of determinative importance when any judge is considering the parties’ financial matters and it will only be in the rarest of cases that it will be appropriate for a judge to do otherwise than approve the order recording that award. He also suggested that such orders should be fast tracked in the same way as where settlements have been agreed between the parties through mediation or collaborative practice.

We are one of the few family teams in the country who can offer all forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, collaborative practice, arbitration and negotiation between solicitors. We believe that in addition to representing our clients in court proceedings where necessary, it is important for them to have a range of options available to them to reach a settlement, so that they can deal with matters in the most suitable way for them and their family. Arbitration is a relatively new option, but for example, just as with above alternative dispute resolution options, can help couples who have made progress towards agreeing matters up to a certain point, but have certain key issues that they simply cannot decide between themselves.

If you or someone you know is keen to try to deal with their financial matters on divorce without involving court proceedings if possible or would like some more information about any of the above options, please do contact Gemma Nicholls, Solicitor and Senior Associate, either by e-mail gemma.nicholls@henmansfreeth.co.uk or by direct dial 01865 781115