Figures from National Family Mediation, a service designed to help families in conflict, reveal that a staggering 95% of couples’ head straight to court without having undergone the mediation process.
Starting from April 2014, the government made it mandatory for separating couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they could apply for a court order for divorce proceedings. The thinking behind this new law was to encourage more couples to smooth out complications and amicably agree on the division of assets, settlements and similar issues – rather than putting undue pressure on the courts.
However, figures from 2014-15 show that in that year, only one in 20 divorce applications resulted in the couple following this new compulsory route to mediation. This meant that there were only around 5,000 couples undergoing MIAMs out of more than 112,000 applications for divorce.
Commenting on these surprising figures, the Chief Executive of National Family Mediation, Jane Robey, told Family Law Week:
"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.
"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."
When mediation can be a good solution
In some cases, mediation could be the better solution. Where a case is relatively straightforward and both parties are willing to talk and to compromise, they could attain a quicker and cheaper resolution all-round. If there are children involved, mediation becomes even more important. Advocates of mediation believe that it can achieve a more amicable, long-lasting solution, one that does not solely revolve around money and financial settlements. Mediation can make angry couples involved in an acrimonious split take a step backward and really consider the needs of the children and the family as a whole.
Of course, not all cases are simple and straightforward, and many do require a combination of mediation, the services of a solicitor experienced in UK partnership law and the intervention of the courts in order to achieve a resolution that works for everyone.
If you are considering divorce and you would like expert advice, whether you intend to pursue mediation as a serious alternative to court action or not, Tracey Miller Family Law can help. As vastly experienced divorce solicitors, Liverpool clients come to us for reliable, professional advice on all aspects of the process.