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Out-of-Court Settlements - Policy, Principle, Practice, Procedure

NCJ Number
Mediation Quarterly Issue: 11 Dated: (March 1986) Pages: 57-67
R Ingleby
Date Published
11 pages
While it has been the policy of British courts for some time to encourage the out-of-court settlement of disputes arising from marital breakdown, it is only recently that firm guidelines have been provided as to the obligations of divorcing parties in such negotiations.
These guidelines reflect the courts' interest in preventing the problems that may arise from completely unsupervised bargaining and from inequalities in bargaining power. Under British family law, agreements negotiated out of court must still be approved by the court to have juridicial effect. Before an agreement is sanctioned by the court in the form of a consent order, the couple must provide the court with information on the date of marriage, ages and resources of the divorcing parties and their children, proposed use or disposal of the home, and proposed living arrangements for the children. In addition to holding extensive powers to make orders for support payments and the distribution of marital property, the courts will not make a divorce decree absolute until satisfied that the arrangements made for the children are the best possible. This 'satisfaction' hearing represents the only time the divorcing parties appear in court. Once a negotiated agreement has been embodied in a consent order, it has the binding force of an order of the court and can be set aside only if it has been obtained as a result of fraud or mistake. The courts, do, however, have jurisdiction to vary any order that provides for payments to be made over a period of time. 2 references.


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