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Out of Court Settlements in Family Law – Changes to be Aware of

Out of Court Settlements in Family Law – Changes to be Aware of
Blandy & Blandy is one of the leading and longest established law firms in the Thames Valley, with offices in Wokingham, Reading, Henley-on-Thames and London.
Partner Tasha Bevan Stewart, in Blandy & Blandy’s Family Law team, explains key changes to be aware of in Family Law.
Increasingly in Family Law cases there is an emphasis on keeping disputes away from the courtroom.  
This is because the Family Court system is under resourced and overstretched - and very often families are better off resolving their disputes without seeing a judge, provided they get good legal advice.
The Family Procedure Rules govern how Family Law cases are run within the court system. Some important changes have come into effect in April 2024, which further support the need for solicitors to guide Family Law cases away from court.

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR) state that courts should encourage non-court dispute resolution (NCDR) under Parts 1 and 3. However, this hasn't always been done effectively, as many courts have underused their power to promote NCDR.
A recent Court of Appeal decision in Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil CBC [2023] EWCA Civ 1416 suggests a shift in this attitude. The decision clarified that courts can order parties to attempt NCDR before seeking a judicial determination, provided it doesn't infringe on their right to access justice and receive a fair trial.

FPR Part 3 has now been amended to reflect this change. The amendment broadens the definition of NCDR to include methods like mediation, arbitration, and collaborative legal practice. The aim is to promote awareness of these methods among practitioners and require mediators who conduct pre-court ‘screening’ meetings to consider and inform participants about the range of appropriate NCDR options.
Additionally, parties will be required to file their views on NCDR with the court, and failure to engage in NCDR without good reason may impact cost rulings in financial cases.

These changes aim to encourage parties, practitioners, and judges to consider resolving disputes outside of court more often, potentially leading to quicker, amicable, and cost-effective outcomes.

At Blandy & Blandy we offer the full range of out of court solutions to clients seeking to resolve their Family Law matters privately and effectively, helping to avoid some of the delays and difficulties of conventional litigation.
Blandy & Blandy is a leading Thames Valley law firm with offices in Wokingham, Henley-on-Thames and Reading. For further information or legal advice, please visit our Wokingham office at 5 Market Place, call 0118 951 6888 or visit www.blandy.co.uk.