In future divorcing couples will have to go through a mediation assessment prior to going through the courts. This is a move proposed by the Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, who hopes that this will lead to more couples taking the mediation route instead of using the courts, therefore reducing the number of divorce related court cases. According to the BBC, Djanogly has claimed that most people whose divorce goes through the courts do not think it is worthwhile, while those who choose mediation are usually happy with the result. This, he claims, makes mediation a much better option for the majority.
Mediation is usually a less stressful route. Not involving the courts is seen as being better where possible, but until now hasnt been encouraged in such a strong way. For it to work the former couple must be more amicable which in theory is better for everyone. If couples are able to separate using mediation then the whole process is easier. Without going through a court battle a divorced coupled are more likely to have an amicable relationship after, which is especially important if they have children together. Mediation is also a cheaper option, costing 535 on average, compared to 2,823 if using the courts, a saving of an average of 2,288.
The government has already decided that there will be a significant cut in legal aid with family law set to take the biggest hit. For those couples who will no longer be entitled to legal aid, or never were, mediation may be a particularly attractive option. From the governments point of view mediation may be seen as a way of reducing costs, and perhaps meaning more people can have access to legal aid as less with be required by the average divorcing couple.
For some, mediation is something they dont even consider, something the government will be hoping will change if all divorcing couples are required to go through a mediation assessment. Therefore, it is hoped this will lead to a large reduction in the number going to court.
Divorces still will go through the courts but only after a mediation assessment, and perhaps an attempt at mediation. If mediation does not prove workable the court alternative will then be used. Divorces involving domestic violence and child protection will not go through mediation. This is because it is seen as unrealistic and not right that someone who has been abused will have to amicably discuss their relationship.
This move is a fairly significant one. Some have claimed that the government are merely attempting to save money as part of the overall spending cuts. However, statistics do should that more couples who use mediation are happy with the results than those who use the courts. It remains to be seen how many couples who go through a mediation assessment end up continuing with the mediation process. It may not be possible in all situations but there are advantages to mediation both due to the financial differences and that it is generally easier for couples.
Andrew Marshall (c)