Monday, 9 January 2012

Family law mediation

Much has been made recently of the government's plans to force separating couples to attend mediation rather than embark on the traditional court route. The media has mistakenly reported on what it calls "compulsory mediation" following changes to family and divorce law last year.

In fact, whilst there is a renewed emphasis on helping separating couples reach agreement on issues such as divorce, financial settlements and disputes involving children, it is not compulsory.

Mediation has long been an alternative to court. However, there will be many occasions when it is not appropriate, such as where there are cases involving domestic violence, child abduction and forced marriage.

Resolution - the organisation which represents over 6000 specialist family solicitors by encouraging members to act in a conciliatory and non-confrontational way - reports that mediation could be inappropriate in as many as two in every five cases, whilst at the same time supporting the government's decision to see fewer cases end up in the court system.

In my experience, whilst the courts are keen to encourage separating couples to use mediation to help resolve disputes, those who have not embarked on the process are neither criticised nor refused access to the traditional justice system.

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