There are many reasons to avoid the family courts. They are overburdened and under-resourced, leading to lengthy delays. There are few waiting rooms, and little privacy. In short, the environment is not conducive to negotiation.
It is no surprise, therefore, that increasingly, those who can afford to do so are ‘going private’. We are used to the idea that many choose private health care, so that they can see a consultant of their choice, at a time of their choosing. Growing numbers of divorcing couples are opting to apply similar principles, so that they can resolve the financial aspects of their divorce as quickly as possible, and away from the public gaze.
Two particular forms of private justice are gaining real traction: private FDRs and private arbitration.
The FDR is a key stage of the financial proceedings and one at which the vast majority of cases settle. It involves a relatively informal hearing in front of a judge. Each party advances their case (via their respective solicitors / barristers) and the judge provides an indication as to what the likely outcome of the case would be should it proceed to a final hearing. This assists the parties to then negotiate and reach a settlement.
There are many reasons to choose a private FDR over a traditional court-based FDR:
An FDR (whether held in private or at court) does not result in a binding judgment. Its aim is to encourage parties to settle by agreement, albeit with guidance from the judge.
Arbitration is appropriate for people who wish to obtain a final binding judgment out of court. It might be appropriate, for example, if the parties could not reach agreement at a private FDR. Arbitration carries the same advantages as a private FDR and can be a very cost-effective way of resolving disputes.
Broadly speaking private judging solutions can provide a bespoke, creative, expedited and cost-effective approach to financial settlements resulting from divorce. Those who can afford them should give serious consideration to private FDRs and private arbitration. The experience of our clients to date has been overwhelmingly positive and we would be very happy to discuss the various alternatives with you.