Reaching an Agreement When You Separate or Divorce

Jun 12, 2024   ·   5 minute read
Couple with divorce contract and ring on desk. Divorce

Most people realise that there are often no winners in a family law dispute. That is why it is so important to try to reach an agreement when you separate or divorce.

In this blog, our family law solicitors outline the changes to the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) and explain how the rule change may affect whether you make an application to the court to resolve your family law dispute or choose a non-court based option to help you reach an agreement.

For expert advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.

The Family Procedure Rules 

The Family Procedure Rules (FPR) set out the rules relating to making a family law court application. They must be followed by family law solicitors and barristers as well as litigants in person, professional experts, CAFCASS officers and the family law judge.

On 29 April 2024, the FPR was changed. The reason for the change was to encourage non-court dispute resolution to reach a family law agreement over your financial settlement or child custody or contact dispute.

The FPRs already required the applicant and respondent to most family law court applications to try family mediation before they went to court and asked the judge to resolve their family law dispute. There were a limited number of exceptions when you did not need to try family mediation before you made a family law court application. Those exceptions have been narrowed and reduced.

The other major change to the rules is an emphasis on other non-court dispute resolution options, rather than just requiring most couples to try family mediation.

Non-court dispute resolution options

Whilst most people have heard about family mediation there are several other non-court dispute resolution options. They include:

  • Family arbitration
  • Collaborative law
  • Private judge or financial dispute resolution hearing
  • One lawyer divorce service

A family law solicitor will go through each of these options with you to work out which one would suit you best and help you reach an agreement. Once an agreement is reached your lawyers can help you convert it into a binding court order from a family law judge.

It is worth discussing your options with a family law solicitor as you may have ruled out family mediation or an alternative option. A family law solicitor can arrange family law mediation sessions where you are not in the same room as your ex-partner if there are concerns about this. Alternatively, if you do not want to negotiate in family mediation you may find that solicitor-involved family mediation works for you. If that does not suit you then using a one lawyer divorce service or a private judge may be your best option. Some might rule out using a private judge as being too expensive but it can be a cheaper and quicker option than court.

Our family law solicitors will highlight the advantages and the disadvantages of the various non-court options so you can make an informed decision.

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 The Family Procedure Rule changes on non-court options  

Couples in family law disputes now need to set out their views on the use of non-court dispute resolution options with a signed statement of truth. The statement is intended to highlight the importance of considering the non-court options.

There may be implications if you decide not to engage in any non-court dispute resolution and you do so without good reason. For example:

  • A judge could adjourn your family law application for non-court dispute resolution to be tried
  • A judge could order that you pay some of your ex-spouse’s legal costs associated with the financial settlement court hearing because you refused to engage in any non-court based dispute resolution and the judge thinks money was wasted by taking it to court or a final hearing

There are several reasons why applying to court and not using any non-court dispute resolution first is a sensible approach. For example:

  • You need an injunction order to protect you from domestic abuse
  • You fear your ex-partner is going to take your children overseas without your agreement
  • Your spouse is transferring assets or money to other people and if you wait to bring a financial court application the money may have disappeared and your financial settlement claim will have been defeated by your spouse’s underhand behaviour
  • Your ex-spouse is refusing to give you any financial disclosure so you cannot reach a fair financial settlement using any non-court resolution option as you do not know the extent of their assets

Our family law solicitors can discuss the reasons why you think a court application should be started rather than look at a dispute resolution option so we can help you work out the best solution for you.

The Evolve Family Law one lawyer divorce service

Our one lawyer divorce service may be suitable for you and your ex-partner and this is one of the options we can explore with you.

With this service, one divorce lawyer advises you and your former partner and prepares all necessary legal documents on behalf of you both in your divorce and financial settlement.

The benefits of one lawyer divorce are that it can save time and money but it is not the right format for every couple. For example, if there is a power imbalance and you would prefer to have your own lawyer then collaborative law or arbitration might be a better fit for one of you.

Next steps

We offer a fixed fee initial consultation in which we can discuss all legal and practical aspects of your separation and assess the best non-court dispute resolution option is the best route for you to take.

For expert advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.