Separating parents and couples will be helped to avoid stressful court battles under a new law being introduced by the government.
The changes are designed to ensure that in future separating parents and couples will first consider using mediation to resolve the issues around divorce and separation - like splitting property or agreeing child contact times – rather than fighting over it in court.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
“Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.
“When people separate we want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children. That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them.”
The proposed new law is included in the Children and Families Bill which is currently being considered by Parliament. This seeks to change the process so that a person who wants to apply for a court order about a children or financial matter must first attend a mediation information and assessment meeting.
Exemptions from this requirement will apply, such as where there is evidence of domestic violence.
According to the government, the average legal aid cost of resolving a private family dispute following a relationship breakdown is approximately £500 per couple through mediation. This is compared to £4,000 per person for issues settled through the courts. The average time for a mediated case is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases.
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