Many separating couples assume that the only way to proceed with their divorce is to take their case to court. However, with the English courts snowed under by an increasing backlog of cases, taking the litigation route means that couples are forced to wait months (or even years) before their divorce is finalised, prolonging the pain experienced by both parties, their children and their families. Taking a case to court can also be prohibitively expensive.

There are alternative ways of getting divorced that don’t involve taking your case to court. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options are a quicker, less confrontational and often much less costly way of separating, meaning that couples can move on with their lives and begin the all-important healing process.

There are three main ADR options for divorcing couples to explore:


All couples are required to try mediation before taking their case to court. With this approach, a trained and independent Mediator will assist the couple through the negotiation process, helping them to come to an agreement in a non-hostile and more informal setting. While the Mediator is not there to give legal advice, they have the expertise and legal knowledge needed to help you both reach an agreement on important issues such as children and financial issues.

Once an agreement is achieved through mediation, your solicitor will then present it to the court for approval and an Order will be made.

Collaborative law

Collaborative family law is a non-confrontational approach to resolving issues following the breakdown of a relationship.

How does the process work?

The process begins with each party engaging a specialist collaborative lawyer.

At the outset, the parties and lawyers will enter into an agreement not to commence court proceedings. This ensures that both parties and their lawyers are committed to making the process work.

Your collaborative lawyer will be by your side in a series of face-to-face, four-way discussions, supporting you through the negotiation process and working with you towards achieving a solution that is in your and your family’s best interests.

The process allows for experts, such as child specialists, accountants or financial advisers, to be brought into these meetings, who will be there to advise both of you. Once an agreement has been reached, the collaborative lawyers will present it to a court for approval, after which an Order will be made according to the terms of that agreement.


The arbitration process is most similar to taking your case to court, but allows you to conduct proceedings in private and maintain much better control of the process. With this approach, the couple appoints an independent arbitrator to act in the capacity of a judge. Like a judge, they will collect the relevant facts and evidence upon which to base their decision on financial, property or child-related issues. Their decision, known as an “award”, will be final and legally binding.

Due to the current backlog of court cases, arbitration is a much quicker and more flexible way of obtaining a swift judgement that enables both parties to get on with their lives. It’s an option to consider if you have already tried negotiating through either mediation or collaboration and have been unable to come to an agreement.

Come to us

If you wish to avoid lengthy, contentious and costly court proceedings and would like to explore whether alternative dispute resolution options could work for you, then Attwaters Jameson Hill’s expert family lawyers are here to advise you. We understand how painful the separation process can be and will do everything in our power to make you feel comfortable and in control at all times during the process. Although this time in your life will never be easy, our lawyers will build up a relationship of trust with you, so that you know your case is in safe hands.

Email us at familylaw@attwaters.co.uk or call 0330 221 8855.

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