The Ministry of Justice recently announced proposals to make mediation a mandatory part of the separation process in England and Wales. The proposals are set to undergo government consultation for 12 weeks, ending on 15 June 2023.
The main aim of these proposals is to reduce the number of separating families having to resolve issues in the courtroom, a process that can often have a damaging impact on the children involved. These proposals are expected to provide better protection for children, decrease the financial burden that comes with heavy litigation costs, and reduce the pressure on the court system which is currently experiencing heavy backlogs.
Former Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab MP described the aims of the proposals saying: “When parents drag out their separation through lengthy and combative courtroom battles it impacts on their children’s schoolwork, mental health and quality of life.”
The press release issued by the government explains that the move is expected to assist up to 19,000 families going through separation proceedings to resolve their issues outside of the courtroom.
The proposals, however, will not apply to all separation proceedings.
Most notably, those matters involving history or allegations of domestic violence, child protection issues or are a matter of urgency will be excluded and will continue to be assessed in court.
Raab explained that “plans will divert thousands of time-consuming family disputes away from the courts – to protect children and ensure the most urgent cases involving domestic abuse survivors are heard by a court as quickly as possible.”
The government currently runs the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme which provides separating couples with up to £500 worth of vouchers towards resolving their disputes through mediation. It has announced that this will receive an additional £15m in funding and will be extended until April 2025.
Chief Executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), Jacky Tiotto highlighted Cafcass’ support of the government’s aims saying: “Programmes that encourage parents to consider together what is safe and in the best interests of their children help to keep the focus on what children want and need as they grow up.”
If you are going through proceedings, or would like some advice on a matter, please contact Bethan on firstname.lastname@example.org