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Family Mediation – Will it become Obligatory?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

With the Court system continuing to be overwhelmed with cases that it is estimated may take years to return to a manageable level, the Government are urgently looking to identify practical solutions.

The significant change being proposed – and is currently subject to a consultation process – is for the involvement in mediation to be a requirement before any Court application can be made.

At present, the requirement is for an Applicant to be able to evidence, unless in exceptional circumstances such as those relating to domestic abuse, that they have considered and discussed the possibility of mediation with an accredited mediator through a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

The Government’s consideration of mandatory mediation is due to the potential for many separating families to be enabled to come to their own resolution over disputes concerning finances, property and arrangements for their children, whether those involved were married or cohabiting, without the need for contested Court proceedings.

From the Ministry of Justice’s perspective, such an outcome for an increasing number of separating families would significantly relieve the pressure upon the Court system. Far more importantly, as mediation is founded upon the principle of the people involved reaching their own resolution rather than having one imposed upon them by a Judge, the benefits for them and any children involved would be substantial.

Where a settlement or arrangement is reached on a voluntary basis, the prospect of that being implemented positively increases significantly, a major benefit for any child who witnesses their parents making decisions about them together, despite the adult’s decision to live separately and independently of each other.

There are major issues of what may be expected or required: will a reasonable attempt to resolve a matter through mediation be required, and if so, how will that be defined? What consequences or penalties would be imposed if the Court considers that expectation has not been met? More information and details should be made available in the coming months, and we will keep you updated as those arise.

In the meantime, if you want to understand more about family mediation, find out more here.

If you want to explore family mediation as an option to resolve any family dispute in which you may be involved, please contact us.