Specialist Senior Solicitor, Lucinda Connell of the North East’s best leading Divorce and Family Law firm, Major Family Law, comments:
There appears to be evidence that government attempts at promoting mediation has not been successful when it comes to options on settling family law disputes. Since 22 April 2014 attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) has been compulsory before a separating couple can apply for a court order in divorce proceedings.
However, figures obtained following a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice show that in 2014/15 only one in 20 applications in private law children proceedings to a family court followed the new ‘compulsory’ route – fewer than 5,000 MIAMs from over 112,000 private law applications.
The Chief Executive of National Family Mediation, Jane Robey, said:
“By requiring separating couples to attend a mediation awareness meeting, the government’s aim was to introduce a cheaper and less confrontational alternative to court. But with fewer than one in 20 of couples even attending the initial meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion, the law has failed.
“We genuinely welcomed the law change requiring couples to explore mediation as an alternative to combative court proceedings. We knew it could not transform the culture of divorce on its own, but these figures suggest even this small government step has flopped.
“National Family Mediation and the mediation community alone cannot change the entrenched culture of adversarial and expensive court proceedings in divorce cases. More government support is needed to inform, educate and publicise the fact that MIAMs are compulsory in order to ensure the law is properly enforced and much more mediation is delivered.
“It’s not just that this is a law, the truth is that settlements negotiated through mediation offer a brighter future for separating families up and down the land.
“And given the well-publicised crisis of the clogged up family courts, one would think judges would have welcomed the changes and exercised their powers to take best advantage of the changes. That does not appear to be the case.”