• April 19, 2024
 Landmark ruling in England and Wales family court advocates non-court dispute resolution

Landmark ruling in England and Wales family court advocates non-court dispute resolution

In a decision, the England and Wales Family Court (EWFC) has underscored the importance of parties endeavouring to resolve their differences outside of court proceedings.

This ruling comes in the wake of a high-profile financial remedy dispute, where parties neglected to engage in any form of non-court dispute resolution before initiating proceedings.

Knowles J, presiding over the case, expressed incredulity at the parties’ failure to pursue alternative dispute resolution avenues before resorting to litigation. In response, the court has issued guidelines emphasising the preference for amicable resolution over adversarial legal battles, particularly in family disputes concerning finances or children.

Highlighting the imminent changes to the Family Procedure Rules, effective from April 29th, Knowles J stressed the court’s forthcoming authority to encourage non-court dispute resolution. These amendments will empower the court to incentivise parties to utilise natural breaks in proceedings for mediation or similar processes. Parties may face cost penalties for non-compliance with requirements such as attending mediation information meetings.

Knowles J referenced the pivotal case of Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil to underscore the court’s capacity to compel litigants in civil proceedings to engage in non-court dispute resolution. Drawing parallels between civil and family court procedures, she emphasised the court’s active role in evaluating the suitability of alternative dispute resolution methods throughout proceedings.

In light of this ruling, parties involved in financial remedy and children proceedings can anticipate heightened scrutiny from the court regarding their efforts towards non-court resolution. Knowles J emphasised the likelihood of adjournments to facilitate such resolutions, as seen in the case at hand where directions for valuations were postponed to encourage out-of-court settlement attempts.

This landmark ruling signals a shift towards promoting amicable resolution in family disputes within the English and Welsh legal system.

Katie Johnson, Digital Journalist, Today's Media

Digital Journalist, Today's Media

Contact: katie.johnson@todaysmedia.co.uk

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