9th July 2024

Non-Court Dispute Resolution

Since a change in the law in April 2024, when someone wants to apply to the court for remedy, the parties are required to inform the Court of their views on “Non-Court Dispute Resolution” (NCDR). The aim of this change is to ensure that people only resort to a Court application after they have considered the alternative ways to resolve their issues. The hope being that this will encourage parties to try to reach sensible compromises outside the Court system where at all possible. Even where proceedings have already been issued, parties will be encouraged to consider alternative methods of resolution. 

So, if you are thinking of issuing an application for a financial matter or in relation to children, or you are already embroiled in one, what are the alternatives? Below is a short summary of the various options, but if you would like to discuss any or all of these in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact our family team.



Parties meet together with a mediator who will help them to reach an agreement in relation to arrangements for children and/or finances. Discussions take place in a safe and confidential setting and meetings are tailored to the needs of the couple. If there are children, they can be the focus of discussions. If finances are being discussed, then full financial disclosure will be required. Both parties can seek their own independent legal advice alongside the process and other professionals can be brought in to assist the parties, such as: family consultants, accountants or financial advisors. Mediation is often a cost effective way of sorting things out, as a resolution might be found within 3 to 5 meetings.

Margaret Sculpher is a trained mediator.

Collaborative Law

Parties meet together with their respective collaboratively trained lawyers in a series of round table meetings to discuss and to reach agreement on any issues which are important to the couple, always ensuring that any children are held at the centre of discussions. There is a joint commitment to reach an agreement without the need to resort to a court application, but each party has their own lawyer to assist them in meetings, which take place in a safe and confidential setting. As with mediation, there will be full financial disclosure and other professionals can be brought into meetings as required, for example family consultants can help with child arrangements and accountants and IFAs can provide more specialised financial assistance. This too is a cost effective way of resolving any issues and again, a resolution is often reached in 3 to 5 meetings.

Both Melanie den-Brinker and Margaret Sculpher are collaboratively trained lawyers.


Arbitration is essentially a private court hearing, where the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator to determine the issues between them. As with a normal court hearing, the Arbitrator’s decision is binding. The benefit of this system is that it allows the parties to resolve matters far more quickly than through a court application.

Private FDR Hearings and Early Neutral Evaluation

These options can be used by parties either before they issue a Court application or after proceedings have been issued, in order to obtain the opinion of a private judge as to the merits of their respective cases. Although, unlike arbitration, the views of the private FDR Judge or early neutral evaluator are not binding, this often helps the parties to negotiate an agreed settlement. Even if this does not result in an agreement, the pFDR can help to reduce the delay in obtaining a final court hearing.


Whichever route parties may choose, these options should help parties to resolve matters more swiftly, cheaply and less stressfully than through normal court proceedings, allowing parties to reach outcomes tailored to them and their family.


Our family team will work with you to ensure the best outcome for yourself. Please contact our team on 01892 510 222 or email info@bussmurton.co.uk

Margaret Sculpher

Margaret Sculpher
Associate Solicitor & Mediator