Court decisions in recent months have illustrated that disputes over inheritance in the farming community tend to result in cases going to trial. To mitigate this trend during the coronavirus epidemic, farmers are now being reminded that alternatives are available to gaining resolution through a court trial.
The other options they are being asked to consider are known by the legal profession as alternative dispute resolutions (ADR).
Common cases heard in dispute trials usually find their origins with a breakdown in relations between family members. These cases can be costly to undertake and can attract a large amount of unwanted attention from the media, causing distress to all parties involved. Farmers have been advised that especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic and under the current lockdown measures, they should explore the possibility of ADR instead.
It is expected that prior to a trial, all parties involved in a dispute will attempt some type of ADR. Failure to at least try this process can result in expensive consequences if refusal to take part is deemed unreasonable. Mediation is the best-known method of ADR, where both sides meet with an impartial mediator who helps them to find an agreement and encourages settlement options.
Mediation in person during the current crisis has mostly stopped to comply with social distancing rules, but remote mediation is still possible. This modern method of ADR conducted via video conferencing or telephone could be a more suitable choice for the farming community logistics-wise, especially since they are often based in remote locations.