Divorcing couples must try mediation before court
The government says mediation is a cheaper, less stressful process than going through the courts, and also provides more long-term solutions that are acceptable to both parties.
According to official statistics, separations involving court action take about four times longer than when mediation is used.
Mediation involves couples holding discussions overseen by a trained mediator such as a solicitor. This helps them to resolve issues like financial settlements and contact arrangements for their children.
The resulting agreements can then be made into a legally binding court order.
In 2012, more than 17,000 people successfully separated from their partners using mediation.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.
“When people separate we want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children. That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them.”
The Children and Families Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, will oblige couples to try mediation as a first step towards resolving differences.
Cases involving extreme circumstances such as domestic violence or abuse will be exempt from the law and will continue to be settled in court.
We will keep you up to date with any developments regarding the new law.