What is a ‘private divorce’?

How to cut through court delays

Last week a headline appeared in a national newspaper declaring: “Long court delays lead to boom in private divorces”. But what exactly is meant by the term ‘private divorce’?

Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘private divorce’. Divorces are dealt with by the court, and that cannot be circumvented. However, parts of the processes connected with divorce can be dealt with privately, by the agreement of the parties.

The primary reason for agreeing to deal with matters privately is that, as the newspaper headline indicated, they can often be dealt with much more quickly than they would be dealt with by the court. Often, court hearings are fixed some way into the future, and then it is not unusual to find that the judge is too busy to deal with the case on the day fixed for the hearing, leading to further delays.

To get around this, many litigants are agreeing to go private in order to progress matters more quickly. The most common examples of this relate to financial remedy proceedings connected to the divorce.

At an early stage in financial remedy proceedings a ‘Financial Dispute Resolution’ (‘FDR’) appointment takes place, at which the judge will try to help the parties settle the matter by agreement, failing which they will give directions as to how the case should proceed. For a fee the parties can appoint a specialist family lawyer to carry out the FDR privately, usually much more quickly than the court would deal with it.

Another example is arbitration, whereby a trained family arbitrator will make a final decision on a family dispute, which will be binding upon the parties, just the same as a court’s decision. Again, arbitration is likely to be much quicker than waiting for the court to deal with the matter. For more detail about the arbitration process, see this post.

If you would like more information about private FDRs and arbitration, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: PRIVATE, by Tristan Ferne, licensed under CC BY 2.0.