Reaching a Settlement Out of Court – Alternative Dispute Resolution

At Hart Reade, all our family lawyers are members of Resolution, which means we are committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way. Our aim is to assist you resolve matters by agreement and without the need for Court involvement.

How can I reach an agreement out of Court?

There are a number of effective ways disputes can be resolved, including:

All of our circumstances are different and not all of these options will be suitable for you (especially if there has been domestic abuse). Therefore, it is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the best option for you.

Direct Negotiation

Negotiating your own agreement can be the cheapest way to reach a settlement.

If you and your partner remain on good terms, communicate well and are able to trust each other, this may be a good option for you.

However, as there are often many aspects to consider, it is advisable to seek legal advice in the background, alongside your negotiations. This will ensure you understand how the law applies to your circumstance and the implications of any agreement.

Solicitor negotiation

We understand that it is not always possible to speak to your spouse to try to reach a settlement.

Therefore, we can help you reach an agreement by negotiating with your spouse’s solicitor. This can be achieved through correspondence, telephone calls or meetings.

We will advise you of the different settlement options available in your case and the best way this can be achieved. With you making the decisions and instructing us how you wish to proceed.

Round Table Meeting

Round table meetings are another form of dispute resolution. A round table meeting involves both parties and their lawyers working together to reach a settlement.

The meeting will usually take place at one of the lawyer’s offices. With each party having their own separate conference room.  Usually the party’s lawyers will meet in a third conference room. Having secured instructions from their respective clients to advance negotiations and pursue settlement.

Round table meetings are a useful way of achieving agreement in a set time-frame.  It is however necessary for both parties to approach the round table meeting. With the understanding that they will need to negotiate and compromise, if constructive progress is to be made.


Mediation involves an independent third party (the mediator) who acts as an umpire to facilitate the discussions between you and your former partner to try to assist you reach an agreement.

The mediator will initially speak to you and your partner separately. Then aim to get you both round a table to talk about your options. Ultimately trying to reach an agreement which works for you both.

The mediator cannot give specific legal advice and is impartial. Therefore, it is essential to receive advice from a lawyer alongside your negotiations at mediation – although it is important to be aware your lawyer cannot attend mediation with you.

Some people find that this does not work for them and would prefer for their lawyer to be present to assist them in the negotiations (as with Collaborative Law).

It also may not be appropriate where there is an imbalance of power between you or there has been domestic abuse. However, for some people, it can be an effective process for resolving tricky issues. It can also help with communication issues and understanding the others point of view.

Collaborative Law

If you like the idea of meeting with your former partner to try to reach an agreement, but would prefer for your lawyer to be present to assist, it may be the collaborative approach is better for you.

Collaborative law is a form of negotiation in which the separating couple and their lawyers commit to resolving matters, without Court involvement. Therefore, if you cannot ultimately reach an agreement using the collaborative process, both of you will need to instruct new lawyers, if you wish to apply to the Court. This often acts as an incentive to reach an agreement.

With collaborative law, you and your former partner sit round the table with your lawyers (who must be collaboratively trained) and work out a resolution together. Therefore, rather than each of your solicitors negotiating in correspondence on your behalf, you all work together to find a solution. The aim is to achieve a fair resolution for everyone – putting the children first.

Clearly this approach will not work for everyone. It requires a genuine desire to reach an agreement that is fair for the whole family and a willingness to honestly disclose information about all assets.

At Hart Reade, we have three collaboratively trained family lawyers, Guy Brown (please add link here), Greg Saunders (please add link here) and Carolyn Richards (please add link here).


In family arbitration, you and your spouse appoint an Arbitrator (a private Judge), who will make a decision for you.

The main advantages are:

You can use arbitration to decide all the financial issues between the two of you on separation, or just a single matter. You avoid the delays of the court system, and both the process and the outcome are completely private and confidential.


Sometimes it is necessary for the Court to become involved and a Judge to make a decision for you – however this should always be the last resort.

A Court battle can be stressful and nearly always increases conflict and makes it difficult to maintain an amicable relationship with your former spouse (which is important, particularly where there are children involved).

Therefore, it is best to try to resolve matters using one of the alternative dispute resolution options. This is often more constructive and cost effective.

However, where an agreement cannot be reached, progress cannot be made, or your spouse is causing delays, the Court is there to assist.

The main advantages of applying to the Court are:


In view of the fact all of circumstances are different, it is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the best option for you.

We will listen and work with you to find the best option for you.

Get in touch

Hart Reade are here to help you in Eastbourne, Meads, Hailsham and Polegate.  All departments are fully operational and ready to progress matters quickly.

If you would like to get in touch with one of our Family Law Solicitors, then please call 01323 727321. Or alternatively, please fill in the form below and someone will be in touch.

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Author: Greg Saunders. Partner, FCILEx

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. You should always speak to a legal professional to discuss your circumstances and consider your options.