Can I resolve child dispute without court proceedings?

6 October, 2020

This week a judge in Bristol weighed in to the debate around the overworked and under-resourced court service. Judge Wildblood issued a statement telling people not bring their parenting disputes to the court “…unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so”.


So, where does that leave those families with genuine disagreements who cannot seem to move past arguments over their children and who might not fall into the category of priority cases? Here are my tips –


1.  Get good legal advice

Specialist and experienced family solicitors will be able to help you understand the law and see the strengths and any weaknesses in your case. That could help you have a more constructive conversation with your ex-partner.

2.  Mediation

Talk to your lawyer about whether your case would be suitable for mediation. Not every case is, particularly in families with a history of domestic abuse. But, when successful, mediation can save you months of stress and thousands of pounds in legal fees. If you do end up going to court, chances are you’re going to have to be prepared to give mediation a chance anyway as most court cases require sign-off from a mediator before being commenced, so think about mediation early.

3.  Go Private – Arbitration

If mediation can’t resolve things and if both parents agree, many disputes about children can be resolved by private arbitration. Yes, you spend more money hiring your own judge, but the case can be dealt with a lot quicker and that often saves you money because you avoid being locked into months of wrangling between lawyers over the disputes that often crop up whilst you are on litigation high alert status!

4.  Arbitration is not for every case

Situations of domestic abuse are unlikely to be appropriate for arbitration nor cases of drug and alcohol misuse or mental illness. Cases involving serious allegations that affect children’s welfare should properly go to court. The case in which Judge Wildblood made his comments was a dispute where the child concerned would either live with the mother and spend time with the father (if the mother won) or spend a more equal amount of time between his parents (if the father won). That kind of case can still take months to work its way through the court system, but could have been resolved much quicker outside of court if both parties had agreed.


So the message is clear – if you can, save yourself time and money and find another way to resolve disputes over children.


If you would like us to consider whether your child dispute case is suitable for arbitration or any other form of non-court based dispute resolution, please email Alex Davies on or call on 020 7591 3314.