Date updated: Tuesday 21st May 2024

The revision of the Family Procedure Rules in relation to non-court dispute resolution came into effect on 29th April 2024.  Many will be aware of the previous consultation by the government that couples should make a reasonable attempt at mediation. The changes in April this year have not gone that far and instead the court now has a duty to consider the use of non-court dispute resolution at every stage in proceedings. The revisions apply to both private law children cases and financial remedy, with the key changes found in parts 3 and 28. The revisions came into force on 29 April 2024.

As a result of these changes, HMCTS has updated the relevant court forms and these are now available online. The forms include an amended C100, Form A, Form A1, Form BFM1 and the new FM5 (Statement of position on non-court dispute resolution).

The definition of non-court dispute resolution’ has been widened to “methods of resolving a dispute other than through the court process, including but not limited to mediation, arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party (such as a private Financial Dispute Resolution process) and collaborative law”.

In addition, the new r3.3(1A) means the court can require parties to file and serve “in the time period specified by the court, a form setting out their views on using non-court dispute resolution as a means of resolving matters raised in the proceedings”.

The form must be filed seven days before the first on notice hearing in proceedings, usually seven days before FHDRA or FDA. The court will update accordingly.

Parties will be encouraged to undertake NCDR for the majority of cases. Exemptions may be made where there is evidence of domestic abuse, for example.

A party who, without good reason, fail to engage in NCDR may find that this approach sees an order of costs.

r3.4(1A) ‘encourages’ NCDR and is strengthened by the amended r28.3(7).

Stone King’s Family & Mediation Team welcomes the revisions and believes it will prove helpful in clients resolving disputes without court action, where decisions could be made for them.

Family & Mediation lawyers Rebecca Eels and Caroline Fell have produced three short videos to help explain the mediation process.

Watch: an introduction to mediation

Watch: an introduction to child inclusive mediation

Watch: an introduction to a MIAM (mediation information assessment meeting)