What Alternatives Are There to Court?

Court is not an easy option. If you can find an alternative way of sorting things out, you should do so. This is called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) also called Dispute Resolution (DR) or Non-court based Dispute Resolution (NCDR).

Finding resolution can be likened to a ladder, where the first rung of the ladder is sitting down over a cup of tea with your ex to draw up a parenting plan. If that is not possible, then the second rung of the ladder could be couple counselling or mediation. The next rung of the ladder is arbitration, collaborative law or a private FDR. The top rung of the ladder is going to court. 

More information about each form of ADR is set out below. Many forms of ADR, including mediation, can be tried even if a court case has already started.

Couple Counselling

Couple counselling (often called marriage guidance) can help you work together as you end your relationship. More information can be found here.


Mediation is voluntary and can help you reach an agreement about disputed issues arising from your separation (e.g. children, finances, communication). Mediators are impartial, do not advise you, and do not impose a decision upon you.  

If you are on a low income, or if your ex is on a low income you may qualify for free mediation through legal aid. See our mediation page for more information.


Arbitration is a voluntary alternative to court proceedings. An arbitrator will make a decision on your dispute instead of a judge. This decision is binding and can be enforced in court. See our arbitration page for more information.

Collaborative law

Both parties instruct lawyers trained as Collaborative Lawyers who work together in an attempt to achieve a resolution without going to court. More information on this process can be found here. Collaborative lawyers can be found here.

Round Table

Parties and their lawyers agree to set aside a day to come together and attempt to negotiate a settlement in an attempt to avoid court. 

Private FDR

Parties pay an experienced lawyer, retired or part-time judge to carry out a “Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing” for them with the aim of reaching a settlement about finances.

At the private FDR a judge hears a summary of the parties’ positions and gives guidance to them about what outcomes are likely or sensible. The judge does not have the power to impose an order if the parties do not agree. Private FDRs can happen prior to court proceedings and you can agree a date which can be quick than court proceedings.