Following on from recommendations in the recent family review report, as from 6th April 2011 couples will be forced to have mediation to resolve any disputes before resorting to the courts and divorce.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly commented that mediation is “a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative, particularly where children are concerned”.
Under the change, anyone wanting to use the courts will have to undergo a compulsory mediation assessment session first, which could cost some couples up to £140.
The move represents an extension of the system already in place for couples granted legal aid. Djanogly said “Mediation already helps thousands of legally aided people… but I am concerned those funding their own court actions are missing out on the benefits it can bring”.
The Justice Ministry has said that the move will cut the strain on the system, especially when it comes to arguing over matters that people, according to the Ministry, are better placed to sort out themselves, such as amending or increasing existing child contact arrangements.
Following the compulsory assessment, where either party or the mediatior themselves feels continuing with mediation will not be suitable the case will progress towards the court system. Cases involvinig domestic violence and child protection will however bypass mediation and go straight to court.
In terms of figures data from legal aid cases shows that the average cost per client of mediation is £535.00, compared with the £2,823 for cases going straight to court.The average tiome for a legally aided medidation is 110 days, compared with 435 days for court cases on similar issues.
Whether parties will opt to take the mediation route post the compulsory meeting remains to be seen.
Osbornes family department has specialist accredited mediators who can take you through the mediation procees, with the aim of resolving issues without going to court in the first instance.
The family department also operates a collaborative law department which simialar to mediation, aims to help couples reach agreement and resolve issues without entering the court process.
For further information on the above issue or any other family law issue, please contact Partner and Head of Department, Julian Beard.
For further information on collaborative law please contact Lisa Pepper.