Family Mediation Week logo

Family Mediation Week: The many benefits of avoiding a court battle

As a committed member of Resolution and the Family Mediators Association, I strongly encourage my clients to pursue mediation as a means of resolving legal disputes, especially when there are children involved.

Latest figures suggest that 30% of cases involving the government’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) have already been in court before – That means that in more than 12,000 cases, the courts didn’t resolve a dispute or bring about a satisfactory result.Family Mediation Week Logo

Family Mediation Week

The 22nd – 26th of January is Family Mediation Week. It’s an opportunity for us to speak out in support of alternative ways of resolving family disputes and to put forward what we strongly believe is a better solution in a great many cases.

Despite the government’s efforts to encourage people to engage in mediation by making it obligatory to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), tens of thousands of families are still using the courtroom as a means of resolving their disputes over children and finances.

The consequences of this are great. The legal system is stagnating under pressure from litigants in person, who since the abolition of Legal Aid in 2014 feel they have nowhere else to go. Valuable court time and judges lists are being consumed by family disputes many of which could have been settled through mediation. This means that cases which really do need to go to court are being delayed and even postponed for several months, denying people access to justice for a longer period of time. One of the most worrying consequences of all that however, is the impact that this has upon children.Multi Generation Family Walking In Park Together

Why court battles can be devastating for children

Conflict, no matter how well it’s hidden, can harm children and cause enduring problems for their mental health. Court based applications for divorce and financial provision can last years and can be emotionally and financially exhausting for everyone involved, and it’s easy for the children to find themselves caught in the middle of all that.

Parents can forget that when they fight over care of a child or their financial provision that their child is really at the centre of the dispute and that can weigh heavily upon them. Even when the dust has settled, parents and children may have suffered long lasting damage: The child may have lost some connection with the other parent, they may lose contact with their grandparents, they may not be happy with their living arrangements, and they may feel that their home has been taken from them.

The benefits of mediation

Through mediation, there is a better opportunity to reduce the impact that divorce and separation can have upon a child. It’s much easier for their concerns to be raised and taken into account especially through direct consultation with children in mediation, as it’s a much more collaborative process, based on communication and consultation rather than being limited to the consideration of legal principles.

From time to time, I am approached by clients who simply want their day in court – sometimes for selfish or vengeful reasons. Whilst some lawyers might fuel the fire, in my experience this is counterproductive and is not necessarily serving the client’s interests. I will always listen to what a client wants, but it is my role as the lawyer to give them realistic expectations and whenever possible, encourage them to approach matters in a less adversarial and more constructive way.  Mediation offers them that opportunity and while it is not for everyone – it can promote a quicker, cheaper and more immediate solution that is far more child focused.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.