Data acquired by National Family Mediation suggests that the government drive to promote mediation via compulsory Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) has not been effective. From April 2014, any couples making an application to the family courts are now required to attend a MIAM in order to discuss alternatives to court. However, according to data from the Ministry of Justice, only 1 in 20 couples actually followed these guidelines during 2014-2015 – a total of 5000 couples out of 112,000 private law applications.
Mediation is an effective method of dispute resolution particularly suited to couples with children, since it fosters a collaborative approach to separation that enables parents to lay plans for co-parenting in the future with minimal disruption to their children. However, government policy intended to increase the amount of couples who use mediation has produced disappointing results – instead, increasing numbers of couples are entering into court divorce without legal assistance at all.
Family lawyer Frances Lindsay is also an experienced mediator-solicitor suggests an explanation for the low rates of mediation: “The basis of mediation is trust. Couples have to trust each other to be able to come to a mutually beneficial decision, but if a relationship has already broken down beyond that point, mediation may not be right for you. There are a number of reasons why people may choose not to use mediation – unfortunately many separating couples are unable to agree on anything, let alone work through the collaborative process of mediation, while others may simply be unaware of the options available to them.
“In all cases, couple should seek information from their solicitor as early as possible. By the time couple are seriously considering applying to court for a divorce, it is often too late for them to reconcile their differences to the point where they can work cooperatively with a mediator. Instead of insisting on MIAMs at this late stage, a more useful service would be earlier intervention for struggling couples, and increased availability of information and support for couples so that they are better equipped to work through the separation process collaboratively, and fully aware of the financial effects of divorce.”
For those who are prepared to commit to collaborative separation, mediation can be an extremely positive method of moving on from the end of a relationship. And for those who would prefer an objective decision to be made on their behalf, court divorce is not the only option – arbitration follows a similar process but is a much more flexible and less antagonistic approach, taking place out of court, therefore reducing the stress and cost of separation.
To speak to an experienced, down-to-earth family law solicitor, get in touch with the team at Frances Lindsay & Co. Our solicitors offer advice, guidance and support through every stage of separation, whether you choose mediation, arbitration, or court divorce. Let us take the weight off your shoulders and find the right solution for your individual circumstances.Tags: divorce mediation Thames Valley, family mediation Beaconsfield, Maidenhead mediation lawyer