The government has announced today, after consulting with those working in the field with families, that they will not impose a requirement for compulsory mediation. The government was considering making all couples attend mediation sessions before they could make an application to the court about their own financial arrangements or the arrangements for their children.
Mediation is a consensual process – in other words, for it to be successful, both parties need to be willing to engage in mediation and take part fully. What The Law Society said at the time was:
“No form of dispute resolution should be mandatory. Attendance must be voluntary for it to be effective. Most couples try to avoid costly court litigation and delays to resolution. The types of cases that do require a court hearing or court process – and would be impacted by the compulsory mediation scheme – are complex in nature.
Complexity needs to be considered, otherwise these proposals could risk harm being done to vulnerable people who are legitimately seeking a court hearing.”
The Law Society says that early legal advice is what is needed by families. Having consulted and listened, the government release their reply:
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for separating families, which is why we’re ensuring people have access to early legal advice and mediation to resolve disputes as early as possible.
These reforms will help spare thousands of children the long-term harm of lengthy, combative courtroom conflict.
More than 60,000 private law children and contested finance cases went through the family courts in 2022.
Long-term conflict between separating parents can have a devastating impact on a children’s wellbeing. The trauma has been linked to increased rates of anxiety, aggression, and depression, and can lead to anti-social behaviour, academic struggles, and substance misuse.
The response of the government runs to 53 pages with proposals for pilots to support early resolution of family disputes. As the reply says:
No one applies to the family court unless they feel it is absolutely necessary. However, respondents to this consultation were clear that a lack of information and support when families separate, or a dispute arises, means that many disputes can escalate and people apply to the court without a full understanding of what the court process will entail or what alternatives may be available to resolve disagreements.
We think that getting early legal advice is essential – not only so that you can understand your options but also so that you will be informed about the process if you do need to go to court and what the court can/will do – or cannot/will not do. We offer a reduced rate initial advice session for all new clients, lasting up to an hour and followed by a note of the advice given. Contact us if we can help.