Alternative Dispute Resolution – First steps . . . . . . forget the jargon, where do we start?

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Let’s face it, we have all been baffled by legal terminology at one time or another, and we have all come across the mind boggling array of self-help books, the internet sites where Court forms can be downloaded and the well-meaning family and friends who know someone who knows everything about relationship breakdown, because ‘they’ve been through it!’ Does it help? Be honest . . . . no, it’s confusing.

Let me try and help . . . first with identifying what you might need upon a relationship breakdown, the possible order in which you might wish to explore it, and what the jargon means

Counselling – (one to one talking therapy to deal with relationship problems or adjusting to life events) Relationship breakdown can be a devastating experience. Do not underestimate the need for emotional support.  Even if you feel you are coping, meetings with a counsellor or therapist can act as a neutral pressure valve and ensure you are better placed to make decisions concerning your future

Information – It is important that you gain information about the options that are available to you in terms of how to go about resolving your differences or even accessing information that might help address particular issues or problems. A meeting with a Solicitor or a MIAMS appointment (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) with a Mediator can provide a valuable insight into the resources and options that are there for the taking.

Legal advice – How do you go about resolving your differences, if you don’t know your legal entitlement or the remedies that might be available to you? You might not be in a position to instruct a Solicitor to represent you (act as your champion to fight your corner) but an initial consultation with a Solicitor to secure outline family breakdown advice can empower you to make the choices or decisions that will have a bearing on the outcome.

Alternative Dispute Resolution – This is a term used to describe the methods of resolving the issues arising from family breakdown, as opposed to the traditional route of each party instructing a Solicitor to negotiate a resolution of their differences, or making an application to the Court for a Judge to determine the outcome. Your options for Alternative Dispute Resolution include

DIY – reaching an agreement between yourselves

Mediation – this is where an impartial third party (the Mediator) assists those involved in family breakdown by facilitating discussions to enable the parties to make their own informed decisions. The parties retain control of their decisions. The procedure is often quicker and less expensive, when compared to Court proceedings.

Collaborative law – (Collaborative by definition means co-operative, collective, joint, two-way, common, shared) Each party appoints their own collaborative lawyer and the parties and their lawyers sign an agreement that commits them to trying to resolve your issues without going to Court. The parties and their lawyers meet together to work things out face to face. Each party has the benefit of his or her lawyer at his or her side every step of the way.

Arbitration – You and your partner appoint an arbitrator (a person with authority to determine the issues) who will make a decision that will be final and binding upon you both. The timetable is up to you and your partner to agree.


If I, Jackie Gifford, can be of any further assistance, please call me on 01903 229903. I am a Chartered Legal Executive with over 25 years family law experience, and a Resolution trained Mediator. Alternatively you may wish to contact Jackie Mensah on 01903 229903 or Richard Adams, our Head of Department on 01903 229938. Jackie Mensah is a Solicitor and Collaborative lawyer trained by Resolution, and Richard is a Solicitor and Accredited Family Law Specialist.