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The Law Society recently said the court system is in crisis after data confirmed that court cases concerning children can take months and in some cases years to resolve. In financial cases the typical wait just for a first hearing is 12 – 16 weeks. These delays have a significant impact on both children and their parents who are left in limbo whilst they wait for a decision to be made. Whilst judges and court staff work tirelessly to ensure cases are progressed, it is clear the court system requires significant investment to improve this situation.

I am often asked what are the alternatives?

Firstly, a great deal of information is now available online which is particularly helpful for families who may prefer not to instruct a solicitor. CAFCASS have particularly helpful advice on their website at  to help with issues concerning children. Such information can help inform families about their options.

Seeking emotional support to help get through the stress of a separation and ensuring that you are emotionally ready to deal with the issues arising out of a separation can also be crucial to reaching an agreement and, if necessary, such support can be accessed through counselling or therapy.

It is advisable to seek legal advice at an early stage to help understand the process and the legal issues which are likely to be involved. A solicitor can also advise on likely outcomes and available options and, if appropriate, provide information on how to access other support.

Solicitor led negotiations are often (but not always) successful in resolving matters. If agreement is not possible, it might at least narrow or identify issues and what action needs to be taken to work towards a resolution.

Mediation is also an option which can help resolve issues and disputes with the help of an experienced mediator. The mediator is there to help you to reach your own arrangements. In many cases mediation is a requirement prior to issuing court proceedings in any event, although exemptions apply, such as cases involving domestic abuse.

In financial cases private financial dispute resolution (private FDR) might also be an option. With a private FDR the judge is entirely focused on your case, allowing more time for negotiations and increased prospects of reaching an agreement. It is a voluntary hearing and as such the parties will be there voluntarily and therefore more committed to resolving matters.

In some cases court action is appropriate and where it is, it is important to ensure the issues in the case are correctly identified, appropriate directions are sought to progress the case promptly and efficiently. It is imperative to ensure a case is managed effectively to avoid adding unnecessary delays to the process.

We are happy to discuss all available options with you and to help you decide what is the best option in your case. Please do not hesitate to contact our Carol Chrisfield at [email protected] if you require any further information.