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Divorcing Couples Must Look at Mediation Route Before Going to Court

Today’s news highlights that the Government is to introduce a system whereby all couples who intend to divorce or separate must attend a preliminary mediation intake meeting so that an assessment can be made as to whether their case is suitable for mediation.

Mediation is a way of resolving by agreement issues which arise following the breakdown of a relationship.  It is an alternative to having those issues resolved by the Courts, or through matters being dealt with by the couple’s respective solicitors.  Generally speaking, it is a quicker and cheaper method of resolving issues, and over the past few years has proved popular with couples who have entered into it, and the mediation success rate is relatively high.

For several years now it has been compulsory for a person who wishes to apply for Public Funding (Legal Aid) to cover their legal costs of resolving relationship breakdown disputes, to attend a mediation intake meeting before the Legal Services Commission will be prepared to consider an application for Public Funding.  This system is now to be extended “across the board”.

Mediation has proved itself a good way of resolving financial and other issues between separating couples and, in particular, sorting out the arrangements for their children.

The mediation process involves the couple attending a meeting or a series of meetings with a trained mediator, whose job is to work with the couple in assisting them in reaching a fair and reasonable agreement in relation to the issues which need to be resolved.

However mediation continues to be a purely voluntary process, and of course one of the spouses / cohabitees may simply refuse to take part in mediation.  This will then lead to a situation where the client would have three alternatives: -

1. Instruct their solicitor to represent them on a private fee paying basis (assuming that Legal Aid will not be available to them having regard to the Government’s proposed cutbacks in Legal Aid);

2. Represent themselves during the process and in Court, which may result in them experiencing considerable difficulties and possibly not achieving the best result for themselves which they otherwise could; and is also likely to clog-up the Court process and increase the Courts administrative costs; or

3. Simply decide to continue to live with their partner, which is likely to result in continuing squabbling or other unpleasantness which in turn is likely to have an adverse effect on their children.

For advice and guidance on taking the mediation route, contact our Family Law department on 01743 280257.