Is compulsory family mediation now here?

On 6th April, virtually all of the rules for all of the family courts in England were changed. One of the key changes is that the Courts now have a duty to encourage litigants to use alternative dispute resolution.

So from now on, before anyone who is divorcing or separating can start Court proceedings to resolve issues over finances or their children, they will be expected to attend a meeting with a professionally qualified mediator, at which point the mediator will assess whether or not the case is suitable for mediation, or collaborative law.

If the separating couple do not go through this process before starting court proceedings, they will probably find that when they turn up for the first hearing, they will be told to go away and try it before coming back to Court. There may even be costs penalties.

The assessment process needs to involve both of the separating couple, although they can be seen separately by the mediator.

If the mediator decides that mediation or collaborative law is not appropriate, it goes no further, and the separating couple will be able to start Court proceedings.

There are certain exemptions from the mediation / collaborative law assessment process, but they are limited.

Of course the mediation / collaborative law assessment process takes time, and will cost more money.

The key message from this is that people coming out of relationship breakdown need to get early legal advice on whether they should go down the mediation / collaborative law assessment route, and what the impact of this could be. They will also need advice on which mediator they should go to, and how they should approach the meeting with the mediator. At George Davies, we already have a wealth of experience in guiding clients through all of the alternatives to litigation, and we have links with many expert mediators in the Manchester area.

For further advice on this or any other family law matters please contact Robin Charrot on 0161 234 8841 or email robincharrot@georgedavies.co.uk 

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