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The role of the Family Court in resolving disputes between parents has garnered increased media attention in recent months. In October Dominic Raab told the Conservative party conference that too many civil cases were going before the Courts. Mr Raab is reportedly preparing plans to make mediation the default position in most family law cases. He is also thought to be considering giving the Family Court powers to impose financial penalties upon parents who are seen to be abusing the Court system by issuing unnecessary proceedings. Our family law expert Michele Ashton, BA, unpacks what these new changes could mean for the family mediation process.
Family Mediation – what Does the Law Currently Say?
Parents and legal guardians must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before family law Courts issue proceedings.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule such as in instances of domestic violence or serious child welfare concerns. A MIAM is an appointment with a Mediator, who explains the mediation and collaborative process. However, a parent or guardian may attend that meeting and still feel that Court proceedings are necessary. In that case the Mediator will sign a form to allow them to make an Application to the Court. This means that at present, attendance of a MIAM is mandatory, rather than participation in the full family mediation process.
What Could Change in Family Mediation?
Family mediation could become the default process in most family law disputes. This could make it far easier to award legal costs against a parent thought to be abusing the system. While it is still unclear whether this will happen, it could soon become impossible for parents to apply to the Family Court without first participating in a full mediation process.
Is it Best to Avoid the Court System?
We agree that Family Mediation is a far preferable solution to involving the Family Court. While sometimes necessary, particularly when a child’s welfare is at risk, we feel that involving the Family Court should be a last resort. Court proceedings can be:
- Lengthy – there is no set timescale, but it can often take between six and twelve months from first application.
- Costly – applications, orders and fees can cost hundreds of pounds
- Stressful – Family Court issues have been identified as a cause of chronic mental health issues following family breakdown.
It is usually better for children if parents can reach an agreement in their best interests by working together. This takes the issue out of the hands of a Judge who does not personally know them.
How we Can Help
At Progression Solicitors we help parents throughout Cumbria, Lancaster, and the rest of the country resolve their disagreements without the need to involve the Family Court.
We negotiate and settle a wide range of parental disagreements, including:
- Where a child lives
- Time spent with each parent
- Medical treatment
Are you having trouble reaching an agreement or struggling to communicate with your child’s other parent? We’ll use our extensive expertise, training, and mediation tools to do everything possible to resolve your matter through negotiation. Our goal is always to conduct family mediation as amicably as possible.
We can help you explore whether family mediation can assist you in resolving issues between you and your former partner. Our expert team can refer you to a qualified and experienced mediation service that can help both sides reach an agreement. We only recommend independent, trained mediators, bound by strict rule of confidentiality. Our expert legal advisors can make sure you receive a fair financial settlement when a marriage with shared properties, savings, pensions, and other assets has broken down.
Family mediation services can help you resolve financial matters as well as child arrangement issues. The process ensures that each party has a full understanding of the other’s financial situation before reaching an agreement.
Our Family Law Team
Before a proposal becomes a Court Order, the Mediator ensures both parties can seek independent legal advice. Our legal services can reflect the agreed terms in a Financial Consent Agreement to be filed with and approved by the Court once an agreement is reached. Remember, the financial bond between you and your spouse or civil partner is only severed once you have a sealed Consent Order from the Court
If you would like to know more about family mediation, or any other aspect legal separation, contact solicitors Lisa Bell, LL.B, Judith O’Brien, LL.B, Michele Ashton, BA, or any other member of our specialist team of family law solicitors on 01229 580956. Arrange a face to face, Microsoft Teams or telephone appointment at your convenience today.