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Goodman Derrick's family team have successfully acted in relation to a rare "non-court" family law dispute

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Goodman Derrick’s family law team have successfully acted on behalf of a client who had a financial order made by consent in 2018 but who was experiencing difficulties in recovering payments for child care costs. The case has been reported in the law reports WL v HL [2021] EWFC B10, it is noteworthy because of the sensible use of  “non-court dispute resolution” as allowed by Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.

Fiona Wilson, head of Goodman Derrick’s family law team, commented:

“Non-court dispute resolution is currently rarely used but because it was, all of the issues were resolved in a timeframe of only 2 and a half months. If the matter had proceed to a hearing where issues were determined after hearing evidence from the parties, it is unlikely a decision would have been made before May 2021. The use of the Part 3 powers assisted our client hugely because she was paid the increased payments for the child care sooner than she had hoped and considerable costs were saved too.”

Background to WL v HL

Our client’s former husband was not willing to agree to payments saying that that did not accord with what was set out in the 2018 order. As a result our client had to make applications back to the court ultimately to vary the previous order to ensure payments were made.

The matter came before Mr Recorder Allen QC in December 2020. He took the unusual but helpful approach of not simply allowing the litigation to run through the standard processes not least as he was concerned that the costs being incurred by the parties were disproportionate to the issues at stake.

Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 deals with ‘Non court dispute resolution’ and gives the court the general power to ‘encourage and facilitate the use of non-court dispute resolution’ and gives the court power, where it is felt appropriate to do so, to adjourn the proceedings and to give directions on how matters should proceed thereafter.

This is a part of the Family Procedure Rules which is not commonly used by the courts but in this case its provisions were used to good effect.

The judge set tight timetables in terms of giving the parties the opportunity to go to mediation, and for reports to be sent back to him regularly so that he could consider whether to make further adjournments.

Ultimately this approach meant that the issues had to be addressed by the parties in mediation and although that in itself did not produce an outcome, a board agreement was reached by the parties shortly after the mediation finished.

There remained two issues that could not be agreed so again the judge used his powers to indicate he would deal with those discrete issues after reading brief written submissions from solicitors. This process was followed and an order was made in March 2021 which resolved all the issues.

It is to be hoped that more judges will be willing to use the Part 3 powers particularly where issues are relatively straightforward but the costs of litigation could be disproportionately high.

Goodman Derrick – Family

Our family law team guide our clients through the legal process so as to minimise the financial costs and to achieve the best possible outcome, the group:

  • provides advice and support for divorce and separation
  • specialises in the resolution of financial issues arising through a relationship breakdown
  • drafts and negotiates cohabitation agreements and pre and post-nuptial agreements
  • focuses on child arrangements and UK and international surrogacy and parental order applications

Goodman Derrick LLP - A London law firm focused on delivering an exceptional service to ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs.

More information

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.