Worthingtons Solicitors

ADR in Family Law and how to communicate effectively

“The problem with the courts system is that it is being used to perpetuate family conflict inadvertently. It is an adversarial process by nature. The rest of Europe uses mediation as the default first option in family breakdown, and yet in Northern Ireland the default process is the courts system”- Joan Davis, director of Family Mediation NI.

In a new era where the focus very swiftly and sharply moved to an appreciation on the ability to communicate with others during the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is clear that when the going gets tough, most of the population, seem to in fact run away from communication or working through the issues with their spouse/civil partner/ co-parent entirely. It is then very easy for acrimony and tension to build up within the relationship causing extreme difficulty in trying to negotiate financial settlements or discuss children’s contact and care arrangements. There are however, a number of services, some even free, that are available to individuals finding themselves struggling with either a marriage breakdown, or a relationship breakdown where there are children involved.

The first golden rule upheld by all tiers of the Court system of Northern Ireland is the requirement to engage in ADR or ‘alternative dispute resolution’ before issuing either Ancillary Relief proceedings or Children’s Order proceedings.

  • This can either be through engaging in solicitors correspondence, trying to find a middle ground or seek advice on the legal issues arising and common ways in which the Court operate in such situations;
  • Through mediation either via a nominated third party individual who can be a mutual friend of those involved, a professionally trained social worker, family therapist, qualified mediator or joint consultation between legal representatives and respective parties;
  • It is by no means a one size fits all approach but no matter which method attempted, there is always something to be gained by endeavouring to narrow issues whether legal or factual.
  • It is often the case that where there is a build-up of tension or harboured feelings to one another that each person becomes entrenched in their own respective positions, meaning any Court resolution is going to be all the more difficult for those parties to come to terms with.

A conclusion achieved by agreement, is always more beneficial throughout all or any type of family law and something that all family solicitors, barristers and Judges will seek to build upon throughout the specifics of that particular case.

Our aim is to maintain and promote amicable discussions throughout all areas of family law litigation as we firmly believe this is in the best interests of our client, and best way to achieve the end goal. For more information on seeking to resolve any child contact disputes, martial breakdown or the division of financial assets please contact our Family law team on 028 9181 1538 or at [email protected] to arrange an appointment.

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