The first option is mediation with a trained and qualified family law mediator via video conference.
In mediation, an independent third party (the mediator) works with the people who are in dispute to reach a mutually acceptable solution. The mediator's role is to help you clarify issues and priorities, identify options for resolving the dispute, and work with those options to help you reach agreement. The mediator will not act as a judge or make decisions about the dispute.
We have three mediators within the team, including the Head of our Team, Rhona Adams, who is a mediator of many years' experience. We are able to go through the particular considerations which apply to remote mediation, and conduct both intake assessments and joint mediation sessions via our video conferencing facility.
Arbitration - either remote or via paperwork
An alternative solution which may fit your circumstances is Arbitration. This is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution for making decisions outwith a court context. Parties to a dispute refer the matter to an Arbitrator whose decision they agree to be bound by. As most Courts are currently only set up to deal with specific urgent matters, the option to Arbitrate may prove to be your only alternative, particularly for "non-urgent" cases which may nevertheless be causing difficulty and distress for those involved.
An Arbitration can be run remotely - on the telephone, by video conference call and in writing. It is not unusual to agree that a case will be dealt with by the Arbitrator having access to Affidavits, productions and written submissions only. All can be dealt with electronically, if necessary. Coronavirus and the current restriction to access to justice may make this the ideal solution for you.
Whilst an Arbitrator cannot "divorce" you, they can make an award on many other family law related matters, for example:
- Financial provision on divorce/separation
- Cohabitation claims.
- Aliment claims
- Children - specific issues re parental rights and responsibilities, including schooling.
Even without Covid 19, Arbitration can offer advantages over the Court process. You get to choose the Arbitrator, who will be an experienced family law practitioner. Your case is likely to be dealt with more quickly and flexibly to suit you - for example the use of telephone or video conference. The process is confidential. There is a written set of rules governing the process. Parties retain their solicitor to guide them through the process.
At Morton Fraser we have two Family Law Arbitrators who will consider with you whether your case is suitable for Arbitration and in particular whether it may be suitable for our fixed fee Arbitration Package.
In spite of the restriction on what cases the Scottish courts are currently able to progress, you may still benefit from advice regarding your court options.
First, we can advise as to whether you have good grounds for arguing that your case is "urgent" and so could be progressed. Second, the situation regarding what cases are progressed and what are not is still subject to potential change. There is scope for cases being dealt with electronically and via either telephone and/or video conference hearings. Although the Scottish courts are not yet set up to do so for routine work, this may progress over the coming days and weeks. Lastly, in some situations there may be an advantage to getting court proceedings lodged now, even if those are then put on hold until after lockdown.
Please just contact one of our family law specialists if you would wish to explore options, including for alternative dispute resolution.