What are the alternatives to Court? Your options, pros and cons and more

Many people think that their only option to resolving contentious issues is through Court proceedings, but that is not true. 
Non-Court alternatives are collectively known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and there are multiple options available, such as mediation, arbitration and solicitor negotiations.

In this article, Sarah Lightfoot-Webber outlines the various forms of ADR, what they involve and the pros and cons; so you can make an informed decision.

Do you have to go to Court to solve a dispute?

The simple answer is no, you do not have to go to Court to resolve a dispute.

However, in some areas of law, such as family finances on divorce, you will need to have that agreement contained in an Order which has been approved by the Court for it to be legally binding and enforceable.

What is ADR in the UK?

Essentially, any form of discussion or negotiation outside of Court proceedings is considered ADR. 

Why is ADR better than going to Court?

ADR is generally considered to be quicker and cheaper than Court proceedings, and you are not bound by any particular rules or regulations, so you have more flexibility in the eventual agreement reached.

All forms of ADR are voluntary, so both you and the other person(s) need to agree the chosen process. However, the flip side means that neither of you can make the other engage or participate in that process.

Sometimes, even though both parties have agreed to an ADR process, one party does not engage, either fully or at all. This can result in significant delays and wasted costs.

If this happens, it is quite common for either party to make an application to Court so that there is a set timetable to address the issues. The Court has power to penalise a party for non-engagement, which could be considered contempt of Court, which is ultimately punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. 

This does not happen very often, the risk of such penalty being sufficient to ensure that parties fully engage in the process.

When is ADR suitable?

ADR is not always suitable. In some cases of domestic abuse, even with the support of professional representatives some people feel too vulnerable to engage with ADR, preferring the protections provided by Court proceedings instead.

If one party is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies, ADR can be difficult, if not impossible, because of the dominant, intractable stance likely to be faced. Location and distance can be a barrier to ADR, but the internet and video conferencing has largely resolved that. 

Whatever your circumstances, it is always worth discussing the options first, before deciding on any course of action or inaction.

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