March 15, 2013

Why one size does not fill all with mediation

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally is calling on mediators to lead the way in helping separating couples resolve their issues without going to court.

Lord McNally said: “My message to you as practitioners and supervisors is simple – your time is now – you now have a once in a generation opportunity to raise the profile of your profession, as a single and united profession.”

It is encouraging to see that the Government is acknowledging the importance of family lawyers like Jones Myers who have made mediation a priority for years – with some considerable success.

Lord McNally’s speech follows the Government’s move to ear-mark £25 million over the next year to support publically funded mediation alongside new laws to ensure that all separating couples consider mediation before they take their dispute to court.

So does the move towards mediation demonstrate that the Government has been listening to collaborative lawyers or is it a more tactical move?  The cynical amongst us may wonder why this public funded commitment to mediation comes hot on the heels of the demise of legal aid for most family law matters, including divorce and child contact issues.

In our experience mediation can offer an effective way for both parties to discuss, agree and resolve issues.  The mediator will be impartial and experienced – helping the couple to reach an agreement on all aspects of their divorce including financial matters and contact with their children.

Mediation avoids both parties taking a confrontational approach in court, removing unnecessary stress and conflict, and it is likely to be a more affordable solution to divorce than doing battle in a courtroom.  It does however involve a commitment from all involved and a willingness to discuss openly the difficulties in the search for a solution.

However, Resolution – the body representing 6,000 family lawyers and professionals – has warned that the heavy focus on mediation and away from the courtroom could punish those with abusive or uncooperative partners.

Mediation is not a panacea for all divorcing couples – in fact Resolution believes that mediation could be inappropriate in as many as two in five cases. Is there therefore a danger that the Government is forcing all its eggs into one basket with this stance?  Mediation remains one of several excellent non-court based ways of resolving family problems but it is not and can never be “one size fits all.”

What are your thoughts on the Government’s position on mediation?  Leave a comment below, tweet us @HelpWithDivorce or e-mail us here.