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Non Court Based Dispute Resolution

What it is, who and how we can help

Non Court Based Dispute Resolution (“NCDR”) refers to a variety of different methods of resolving family law disputes without recourse to the courts.  Such methods include, but are not limited to, mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation and collaborative law.  From April 2024, new rules have come into effect that endeavour to encourage parties to make use of NCDR in an effort to bring about an early resolution to family law matters that would otherwise go to court.  The family court system is extremely over-burdened and consequently can be a slow and frustrating process and the new rules are designed to ease the burden on the family justice system.

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"Payne Hicks Beach are arguably the strongest family law firm in the country, providing enviable strength and depth in both financial and private children law areas” Chambers UK

The court will actively promote the use of NCDR and throughout proceedings will regularly consider whether proceedings should be adjourned to enable the parties to endeavour to seek resolution through NCDR. At the outset of proceedings parties will now be required to complete a Form FM5 in which they are required to set out their views on whether NCDR can be used to resolve their case.

NCDR requires both parties to engage in the process. However, the court now has powers to sanction those who do not engage in NCDR without a very good reason why. If a party has behaved unreasonably and failed to engage in NCDR then they may find that the court makes orders that they have to pay the other parties legal costs.

At the outset of every case we give consideration to the use of NCDR and will guide you to the most appropriate path for your particular circumstances.


Before legal proceedings begin parties are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (“MIAM”). This is a meeting at which a mediator will explain the options and will suggest the suitable forms of NCDR. We are also highly experienced in all forms of NCDR and will advise you as to your options.

There is an exemption to the requirement to attend a MIAM for those who are victims of domestic abuse. Evidence will be required.

There are a myriad of advantages to operating outside of the court framework. These include flexibility to organise arrangements, costs tend to be lower, confidentiality and speed.

Yes. If there is a very high level of conflict between a couple or there has been abuse or coercive control then NCDR may not be suitable. It may also not be suitable in cases where there are doubts over whether one party will voluntarily provide full and frank disclosure of their financial circumstances. In those cases, it may be more appropriate to issue proceedings to court.

The Family Team at Payne Hicks Beach is ranked in Chambers HNW 2023. 

The directory writes that:

“Payne Hicks Beach has a highly esteemed family law department which regularly handles high-value and sophisticated matters.” 

“They are uniformly first rate, from the technical ability of more junior team members with day to day responsibility on a case, to the deep experience and strategic thinking offered by the partners and more senior associates.”

“PHB are absolutely excellent. They are all extremely competent, and can handle really big cases without being fazed by anything.”

With rankings over many years in Chambers HNW, testimonials include “They’re as good as you’ll find; they’re a class act,” says a source, explaining: “They have a lot of depth to their practice. They all have great experience and are very good to deal with.” 

Another comments: “They are a fantastic group of lawyers. They provide excellent advice to clients, and they have strong expertise in a range of areas. They really invest in their clients; it’s a real pleasure dealing with them.” 

The Legal 500 UK 2023 describes Payne Hicks Beach LLP as a “top notch firm that does A list work for the most influential, successful and high profile clients.” 

The law directory expands to say that “the department is ‘outstanding’ and garners praise for its specialist advice on the full spectrum of complex family law issues often with an international dimension for high-profile individuals, entrepreneurs, UHNWs and others including members of international Royalty” and recognises that the team “is frequently instructed in cases that go to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.”  “Overall it is a ‘class act with a team of great lawyers who know exactly how to run the big, difficult litigation but never lose sight of what the client wants’.”  

"The best legal team money can buy. Unbelievably thorough, first-class litigators, highly respected in the field. Supremely well connected internationally and ideally placed to help in cases involving multi-jurisdictional issues" THE LEGAL 500 UK