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Divorcing couples urged to use mediation to reach settlement

Divorcing couples are being urged to use mediation to resolve disagreements instead of going to court.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says mediation is cheaper and far less stressful for everyone concerned. It’s now planning new legislation which could oblige all separating couples to consider mediation before they can take disputes to court.

Mediation is an informal process in which a trained mediator, such as a solicitor, helps the couple to resolve difficult issues amicably.

The mediator can arrange meetings on neutral premises. The mediator’s role is to act as a facilitator to help the couple share information and reach an agreement. It is not to offer advice or favour one side or the other.

Once the couple reach agreement, the mediator will record it in two summaries. Both husband and wife should then give those summaries to their respective solicitors so they can form the basis of a consent order.

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said: "All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes. "That is why we are changing the law so that all couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation information assessment meeting first, to find out about mediation and consider whether it is suitable for them."

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 may not be suitable for everyone but for thousands of couples it has already provided a way to reduce stress and heartache to a minimum. In many cases, it helps couples maintain a more civilised and workmanlike relationship into the future. This is particularly important where couples may have to continue making decisions about their children.

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