The Government has now responded1 to the Family Justice Review panel’s November 2011 review of the entire family justice system in England and Wales. Most of the review’s recommendations have been accepted in full, including those around resolving disputes over contact with children when parents’ divorce or separate.
[UKPRwire, Fri Jun 22 2012] The Government has now responded1 to the Family Justice Review panel’s November 2011 review of the entire family justice system in England and Wales. Most of the review’s recommendations have been accepted in full, including those around resolving disputes over contact with children when parents’ divorce or separate.
The Government has pledged to reform private law so that when a couple separates, they have more support to reach their own agreements without having to settle the dispute in court. There are plans to introduce a range of support services to help divorcing couples reach their own solutions – and family mediation will play a major role. This reflects the review’s recommendation of ‘...a supportive, clear process for private law cases... enabling people to resolve their disputes safely outside court wherever possible.2’
Although the Government wants to help parents avoid the legal process altogether through other support measures like a new web and telephone advice service and the development of Parenting Agreements, family mediation will be available to those couples that need more help. It will become mandatory for separating parents to undergo a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before taking their dispute to court, to find out if mediation is a viable alternative to resolving their dispute.
The Government has also accepted the review’s recommendation that ‘All mediation in which disputes about children are being discussed should be child-centred3’ and is increasing the amount of public funding available for family mediation from £10 million a year to £25 million. Voluntary organisations are likely to provide many or most of the publicly-funded mediation services.
Although the Government recognises that some cases will still to need to go to court, especially where there are issues such as child protection, it is hoped that the majority of family disputes will be resolved out of court in the future. A Co-operative Legal Services spokesperson commented: ‘Family mediation can be an excellent way of resolving a range of disputes, including child custody and contact arrangements. A trained mediator will work with you to develop and agree on a shared parenting plan for divorcing couples. They can also help with a wider-reaching Separation Agreement, covering finances and other issues, if the couple are not ready for formal divorce proceedings.’
The Co-operative Legal Services offers free legal advice on all aspects of separation and divorce, including family mediation and Separation Agreements.
1. Source: The Government Response to the Family Justice Review: A system with children and families at its heart. www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/CM-8273.pdf
2. Source: Family Justice Review Final Report, 4.69, www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/moj/2011/family-justice-
3. Source: Family Justice Review Final Report, 4.105, www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/moj/2011/family-justice-
Notes to editor
The Co-operative Legal Services provides a range of legal services that are designed to make it easier for people to access high quality legal provision. Our services include will-writing, probate, conveyancing, personal injury, employment law and family law. Free, no obligation legal advice is provided with all these services. We operate nationally and, in the last year, have given legal assistance to thousands of people. You can find out more at www.co-operative.coop/legalservices.
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