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From 6th April 2011 any spouse who wishes to divorce, and then either issue court proceedings to ask a Judge to deal with the issue of division of family assets, or make an application for an order in respect to the children, should first contact a family mediator to attend an information meeting about family mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
The purpose of the new procedure is to attempt to reduce the number of people filing court applications without first considering mediation as an alternative method of resolving disputes. Mediation can, in many cases, be more cost effective than court proceedings.
For mediation to work it has to be a voluntary process therefore couples need to be open and honest about their financial disclosure and willing to engage in mediation in a meaningful manner.
On the basis that mediators are neutral, and do not give either party legal advice at mediation, it is sensible for people to consider engaging a solicitor either before or during mediation so that they are better equipped to engage in a meaningful discussion with their partner at mediation thereby increasing their chance of reaching an agreement.
If a successful agreement is reached at mediation, the mediator will prepare a document setting out the parties’ agreement which the parties’ respective solicitors will then review , and advise on, before submitting it to the court for approval.
There may always be some cases where a Judge will have to adjudicate and there will be some cases where, because of the dynamics between husband and wife, mediation will not succeed. The wording of the new procedure is of an expectation rather than a mandatory requirement and it will be the court which will take into account any failure to comply with the new procedure. Are the judges going to make costs orders if the parties do not comply with the requirement to attend a mediation session? We do not know. We’ll just have to wait and see.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles