Partner Michelle Uppal comments on the changes to Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules and how they could lead to a change in attitudes towards non-court dispute resolution.

Michelle’s comments were published in The Law Society Gazette, on 29 April 2024, and Today’s Family Lawyer, 2 May 2024. 

“The amendments to Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules could lead to a sea change in attitudes towards non-court dispute resolution in the minds of clients and the general public alike.

“The new rules will rightly bring all out of court methods under one new banner term – non-court dispute resolution – and expand its definition to include not only mediation but arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party, collaborative law, and more.

“There is also a welcome and fundamental update to Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting exemptions, including aligning the definition of domestic violence with the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, and allowing parties to attend the meetings virtually, removing the excuse of non-attendance due to being abroad.

“The decision from Mrs Justice Knowles in Re X (Financial Remedy: Non-Court Dispute Resolution) 2024 last month has been critical in ensuring judicial backing. This is pivotal – judges will now actively evaluate whether non-court dispute resolution is suitable at all stages of a case.

“I hope that the courts will now flex their muscles and impose cost orders for those who fail to get around the table without good reason. This could spell the end of parties wanting their day in court if there are more constructive options available.”