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Court backlogs – alternative options?

divorce expert

The courts are currently facing a huge backlog for processing family cases. Recent reports have suggested that the backlog now stands at over 110,000. This means that people who are starting court proceedings are going through a process which now takes approximately 43 weeks to complete.

The Ministry of Justice have recently confirmed that they are taking action and investing £324 million over the next three years to try and reduce the ever-increasing demand on the system. The priority for the court system are the cases which involve children, but this does unfortunately mean that other important matters, such as financial remedy in divorce are being pushed back as a result. These ongoing delays mean that people will not be able to move on with their lives whilst they wait for the court process, which often takes several months between court dates.

Maguire Family Law specialises in all aspects of the family law process, including every stage of court proceedings and assisting clients in avoiding court proceedings and engaging in private negotiations where appropriate.

Whilst the court process may be necessary in some cases, there are many alternatives that get little media attention and generally most people aren’t aware of. The courts are the main focus for many clients at the outset of their case but for many it is simply not suitable or the best option, particularly where both parties are able to communicate effectively utilising solicitors and work towards an alternative path.

Mediation is one of the most common forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is utilised currently across England and Wales. Mediation works by both parties agreeing to discuss how to progress the issues between them, for example how often the children will spend time with both the parents. An independent mediator will set up a meeting, either in person or virtually. You do not have to be in the same room as your ex or speak to them directly if you are not comfortable with this – the mediator will take care of this for you. A mediator is not able to make a decision about what should happen but is able to help guide you both towards reaching a decision between you by agreement. Meditation is also a key part in initiating the court process as most often people are required to attend at a minimum of one mediation session before they are allowed to make an application to court, with limited exceptions.

Maguire Family Law also offers a specialist mediation service, with Honor Giles being both a qualified solicitor and mediator. Honor’s expertise means that she is able to guide clients through the mediation process and help mediation clients remain focussed and supported throughout their meetings.

Alternatively, arbitration is an option which more and more people are looking into, with the ongoing issues faced within the court system. Arbitration is similar to court but it does not involve the actual courts. You are able to select your arbitrator(s) who will act as though they were a judge. They will review all of the evidence and the arguments submitted and will give their verdict. The same arbitrator will hear your case throughout the entire process, which does not happen in court. Maguire Family Law’s team can assist you throughout the arbitration process and support you with expert family law advice before, during and after engaging in arbitration.

Whilst mediation and arbitration do have their benefits as part of dispute resolution within family law, it is always best to seek specialist legal advice at the very beginning of your case, to ensure that any decisions that are reached or agreed are fair and legal. Speaking to a specialist family law solicitor means that you will have professional representation who will help to explain the legal processes and help you to achieve your desired outcome. Maguire Family Law’s specialist team of family and divorce law experts are trained to help you negotiate outside of court and guide you through alternative dispute resolution processes and support you towards a resolution of your matter, whichever way you decide to take it.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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