Rules allowing the court to encourage parties into alternative dispute resolution have been historically underused, a judge has said while directing a divorcing couple to use non-court resolution under new procedure rules. 

Nicholas Allen KC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said that NA v LA was a 'paradigm case' for the court to exercise its new powers under Family Procedure Rule Part 3 and 28, which came into effect on 29 April. Under the new rules, adjournment for the purposes of non-court dispute resolution no longer requires the parties' agreement and the court can give directions over non-court dispute resolution on its own initiative. 

The judge said there was nothing that suggested the case would be unsuitable and that the ‘court has a duty to consider' non-court dispute resolution (NCDR). 'I consider NCDR to be appropriate and I wish to encourage the parties to engage in the same. This would be to their emotional and financial benefit as well as to the benefit of their children,’ the judge added.

Both parties will be required to tell the court what engagement there has been with non-court dispute resolution, what, if any, issues have been resolved, and proposals for continuing before the judge decides an ‘appropriate way forward’.

The judge also stayed the financial proceedings with immediate effect. Acknowledging the ‘already considerable’ expense of the proceedings, with the wife’s costs exceeding £100,000, the judge said: ‘Both parties must keep the issue of costs and the proportionality of incurring the same very much at the forefront of their minds.’


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