Financial Remedies: Court Backlogs and Alternative Dispute Resolution

The lead Judge of the Greater Manchester Family Proceedings Court, HHJ Haigh, has called for co-operation from family law solicitors working in the local area in an attempt to ease the pressure on Court staff working in the Greater Manchester financial remedies Court.

It seems that whilst the country is in lockdown, the court is giving financial remedies work the least priority. All cases issued from 1 January 2020 have been backlogged, which has worsened with 30% of Family Court staff jobs being cut temporarily, causing the processing of financial remedies to slow even further. HHJ Haigh anticipates that the backlog will take at least one to two months to clear and the Courts are strongly encouraging solicitors and their clients to consider whether issues can be resolved by engaging in one of the methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) available.

The Court will continue to deal with urgent cases such as freezing assets so that they cannot be disposed of, and interim maintenance orders.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

ADR is a generic term used to describe any process aimed at resolving disputes without going to Court. Responsible family solicitors have recognised that litigation is not always the best way to resolve family disputes.

During Court proceedings, the Court is obliged to consider, at every stage, whether ADR is appropriate, and may adjourn the case for the purpose of obtaining information about dispute resolution and, with agreement, for it to take place.

What are the most common processes of ADR?

  • MediationThis occurs when a couple engages with the assistance of one or two impartial mediators who have no authority to make any decisions for them, but who instead use certain methods to help them resolve their issues by negotiated agreement without adjudication.
  • Collaborative LawCollaborative law operates as a series of meetings aimed at enabling the parties to resolve issues resulting from the breakdown of a relationship. The process requires the parties and their solicitors to sign up to an agreement, promising to try to reach an amicable consensus on all issues without recourse to Court.
  • ArbitrationAn independent third party considers the dispute and makes a decision. Arbitration gives the parties more flexibility, for example, they can control the process and the timescale. Confidentiality is also assured which may be very important for certain clients. The arbitration process can be very informal. Financial and property issues along with private children disputes can be resolved in arbitration.Both parties must sign up to the rules of the arbitration scheme and agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s award. The parties may nominate their own arbitrator or ask the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (IFLA) to choose an arbitrator for them.The scheme envisages that the parties will, where necessary, apply to the Court for an order that mirrors the arbitration award. A legally-binding financial remedy order on both parties can be obtained relatively quickly.

For more assistance with financial remedies and Alternative Dispute Resolution, please contact Claire Porter, Senior Associate, on 01244 305 926 or email [email protected].