There are proposed plans to force separating couples to negotiate their divorce first by mediation. The proposals aim to relieve pressure on the family court backlog as well as to promote a more amicable form of separation. (The proposals will not apply to cases involving allegations of domestic abuse.)
Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “When parents drag out their separation through lengthy and combative courtroom battles it impacts on their children’s school work, mental health and quality of life.
Our plans will divert thousands of time-consuming family disputes away from the courts – to protect children and ensure the most urgent cases involving domestic abuse survivors are heard by a court as quickly as possible.”
What is mediation?
Family mediation is a method where a separating couple aims to reach agreement, namely, children and financial arrangements by meeting with an independent third party, known as a mediator. The mediator is professionally trained and acts as a neutral guide to help the couple through their differences. The mediator does not offer legal advice but lets the parties know what the law says about divorce.
I thought mediation was already mandatory?
Since 2014 there is a requirement to attend a mediation meeting before you make an application to the court for financial remedy or child arrangements and this is known as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). At this meeting, the mediator will discuss your concerns with you and explain how mediation works. They will tell you whether they think mediation is a suitable process for you to try to reach a solution with your spouse. If there is an urgency to your situation, for example with regards to the safety of your children or domestic violence, other grounds apply and mediation is not compulsory.
Is there opposition to the mandatory mediation proposals?
The Law Society has warned the public should be aware of their legal rights before going into mediation. In relationships where there has been a power imbalance, it is vital the weaker party seeks early legal advice. Society president Lubna Shuja said: “The risk is that compulsory mediation could force the wrong people into the process, at the wrong time and with the wrong attitude for it to be effective. They need to be ready to mediate and have a full understanding of what the process will involve.” In other words, there is a worry in cases involving coercive control, where the victim could go straight into a process that empowers their abuser.
When will a decision be made?
The proposals are under government consultation, closing on 15 June 2023.
I am thinking about divorce, what should I do?
If you are looking for advice on child arrangements or finances on divorce, it is highly recommended to seek early legal advice. Our team are happy to assist with any queries in relation to the issues raised above.
Get in touch
If you want to find out more, do not hesitate to call us and one of our private client lawyers will be more than happy to help.
Please note the above is for information purposes only and is intended to be a short summary. It should not be treated as a comprehensive guide and should not be acted on without qualified legal advice.