Family lawyers are bracing themselves for a sea change in the way that the family court system works; these changes will come into force from 22 April 2014. Many of these changes won’t be noticed by members of the public who rarely need to use the court system. At Major Family Law we are prepared for these changes and we want to ensure that you know about one essential change.

The process of mediation helps people to split up with less stress and less cost than using the court process. Mediation has been available to people going through family breakdown for over 10 years.

Legal Aid is available for Mediation and therefore the new rules coming into force on 22 April should mean that  more people will attend to be assessed at an initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). If one person is eligible for Legal Aid then the Legal Aid Agency will pay for both of them to attend a MIAM at no cost to either of them. The eligible party will then be entitled to ‘no cost’ Mediation moving forwards and ‘no cost’ Legal Advice after a successful Mediation to put any Proposals reached in Mediation into effect legally.

As of 22nd April, people won’t be able to access the court system unless they can satisfy the court that they have been to a mediation information and assessment meeting.

Prior to the changes, the attendance of the applicant at a meeting was desirable but not mandatory.

After the changes, the family court can reject any relevant family application without the applicant’s proof of attendance at this meeting. A few people will be exempt from attending the meeting, depending on their circumstances. Naturally they will need to prove their case before the court issues their application.

In response to these changing times, Major Family Law are the lead provider of a new national mediation initiative, Lawyer Supported Mediation (LSM).  LSM provides a fixed fee service – under £5000 outside central London – combining legal advice, mediation, preparation and pre and post mediation drafting.  As Lawyers we do not attend at the mediation but we support the process and work together in order to achieve a cost effective solution for our clients whilst keeping it out of court.

For further information concerning the Family Court changes or Lawyer Supported Mediation, please contact Joanne Major, Principal at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road,  Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

T: 01661  82 45 82 Twitter: @majorfamilylaw