The new law aims to persuade couples to enter into mediation to resolve issues around divorce and separation, including issues concerning both children and finances, rather than battle it out in a court room.
In mediation couples have discussions helped by a qualified and accredited mediator, to try to reach an agreement which is acceptable to both of them, rather than a court making the decisions. Once agreement has been reached, in some circumstances, the court can make the agreement legally binding.
Don Bird, partner and head of the Family Law Department at Atherton Godfrey, and a fully qualified mediator, said: “Mediation is incredibly effective and allows people to reach longer lasting solutions.
“Around 17,000 people successfully used mediation in 2012, with the vast majority requiring no further legal services.”
Family Justice Minister, Simon Hughes said: “Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that people use 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 the 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 Children and Families Bill, which is at present being considered by parliament, includes a provision meaning that it would be compulsory for most couples to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before they can make any application to court.
Cases involving domestic violence or child protection will be exempt from mediation as legal action through the courts may be needed.
Atherton Godfrey has a specialist Family Law Department and is able to provide mediation, or complementary legal services to those entering into mediation elsewhere. Telephone 01302 320621 and one of the team will be happy to help.