IS THERE AN EASIER WAY TO DIVORCE?19th Apr 2012
New Rules on Compulsory Mediation Sessions for Separating Couples
Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, recently confirmed that, as from 6th April 2011, a new Pre-application Protocol will dictate that separating couples must undergo a mediation assessment before being permitted to make an application to the Court. The Protocol will affect both financial and children issues. The Protocol encourages disputing couples to explore the possibility of reaching an agreement directly with the professional, but neutral, assistance of a Mediator in an attempt to resolve their disputes without recourse to the Court.
Couples unable to reach an agreement will be required to attend a mediation awareness session. If the case is deemed suitable then mediation will proceed with the aim of securing a written agreement. If mediation is not viewed as suitable, or breaks down, either party can apply to the Court to determine their issues. Parties cannot be forced to continue with mediation after the awareness session.
Attempting mediation will not be compulsory for cases involving allegations of domestic violence or child protection.
The difficulty faced by disputing couples is just how long they will have to wait before a mediator is able to offer an awareness session. The amount of cases issued with the Courts in England and Wales (Scotland is not subject to the new Protocol), compared to the current number of mediators raises cause for concern. Delays in accessing mediation could cause frustration for the parties, resulting in them not feeling able to discuss their issues in a non-confrontational way within mediation. Court applications could be backlogged as a cause of the influx of applications in one go.
However, mediation is generally found to be helpful for both legally aided and privately funded clients, either in reaching a quicker settlement or narrowing down the issues for Court. Whilst mediation sessions attract a fee, research shows that the cost of mediation, both financially and emotionally, is far less than that as a cause of court proceedings.
The Family Team at Coles Miller Solicitors Dorset are committed to discussing with their clients the various options open to them to resolve their financial and children issues to suit their needs. Lindsay Halliwell, covering the Bournemouth and Charminster offices, will shortly be training to become a Mediator to enable the team to offer a further service, alongside her colleagues, Emma Hamilton Cole and Colin Mitchell who specialise in Collaborative Law.