New government family law proposals could accelerate a cultural shift for separating couples away from family courts, says The Family Mediation Council (FMC).
In March, a series of new measures proposed in a consultation by the Ministry of Justice were set out to help separating families see out-of-court dispute resolution as their first stop.
This means that separating couples have to attempt to agree their child custody and financial arrangements through a qualified mediator with court action being a last resort.
The Ministry of Justice said the move could impact as many as 19,000 families, all while “reducing backlogs, easing pressures on the family courts, and ensuring the justice system can focus on the families it most needs to protect”.
“Too many separating couples currently see a default position of taking their dispute to a family court, with all the costs, stress and delays that involves,” says John Taylor, Chair of the FMC.
These proposals could accelerate a cultural shift, steering couples away from the family court, and helping them see that mediation can produce outcomes for all family members which are better than those the court could provide.
This consultation showed that Ministers recognise the value of family mediation in helping separating couples make parenting and financial arrangements without all the complications involved in going to court.
John Taylor added:
“It will help shine further light on a process that has the potential to help many thousands more separating couples for many years to come.
In family mediation an independent, professionally-trained mediator helps you work these things out, enabling you to avoid courtroom confrontation.
Professional mediators help you to create long-term solutions for your particular circumstances, rather than leaving it to a court to make decisions for your family.”
Family mediation is a process that helps separating couples make arrangements over parenting, property and money, in a way that lets them keep more control of their family’s future.
He said the new consultation builds on the government’s successful £500 voucher scheme, which is encouraging separating couples to consider family mediation to resolve their disputes.
“The experience and expertise of accredited family mediators are going to be vital factors in ensuring that any changes have the best possible impact on families which in future find themselves facing separation or divorce,” he said.
“The FMC will be responding to the consultation positively and constructively and will encourage family mediators across England and Wales to get involved in this important consultation process.”