Articles about solicitors and legal services

Divorcees must try mediation before they can go to court

Divorcing couples who want to go to court to settle disputes will first have to show that they have tried mediation.

The system is already in place for couples granted legal aid and now the Government has announced that it will be apply to all couples from 6th April onwards.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "Mediation already helps thousands of legally-aided people across England and Wales every year, but I am concerned those funding their own court actions are missing out on the benefits it can bring.

"Now everyone will have the opportunity to see if it could be a better solution than going straight to court."

Ministers believe mediation will save money and help reduce stress for divorcees and their children.

Government figures suggest that the average time for a case to be completed using mediation is 110 days. That compares with an average of 435 days for cases involving the courts. Mediation is also much cheaper with the average case costing £535 compared with £2,823 for those going to court.

Under the new system, the spouse who wants to go to court to settle disputed issues must first approach a professional mediator. The mediator will then contact the other spouse to arrange a meeting to ensure that both parties understand what mediation entails and enable them to decide whether it might be helpful in their case.

It’s hoped that many couples will decide that they can settle differences by mediation. If they decide that it is not suitable for them, they can then proceed to court but they will have to show that they have attended a mediation awareness session.

The regulation doesn’t apply in cases involving issues of domestic violence or child protection. Nor is it a requirement for couples who don’t need to go to court in the first place.

Mediation is designed to help couples settle differences amicably with the help of a trained mediator, usually a solicitor.

The approach is non-confrontational. Both parties can still have solicitors present if they wish. This is often helpful if one partner feels insecure in the presence of the other, or perhaps fears that they lack negotiating skills or an understanding of the matters to be discussed.

Mediation sessions may take place over several months so neither side has to be rushed into decisions.

Mediation can be particularly helpful when a couple want to put the interests of their children first yet find it difficult to reach agreement. If they can find an amicable solution then there is a chance that they may remain on good terms after the divorce.

This can be enormously helpful as they may need to retain a good working relationship for many years for the sake of their children.

The same principle applies to other arrangements that have to be made when couples separate. They may have to sell their home so the proceeds can be divided between them. They may also have to reach agreements about their investments, their property and even their pensions.

It is better if these issues can be resolved in a civilised way that is fair to both sides rather than have a solution imposed upon them by a court.

Please contact us if you would like more information about mediation or any aspect of family law.

If you wish to make an appointment, or ask us a question please contact us.