New mediation laws to help separating couples.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I’m pleased to see that separating couples will be legally required to find out about ways to settle disputes away from the courtroom, under new laws currently going through Parliament.
New figures show that 124,420 couples filed for divorce in 2012 but instead of potentially long and costly court hearings couples opted for mediation – a quicker, cheaper option which provides better outcomes. Last year 67% of all publicly funded couples resolved their concerns out of court with a qualified mediator.
I work with many mediating & collaborative lawyers as they refer families to me to create a One Page Profile for their children.
Despite divorce being on the increase around the world, parents often feel at a loss when searching for practical support. They also feel overwhelmed, confused, afraid, resentful, or completely frozen in panic about how to handle the changes in their family’s way of life.
Sometimes this fear manifests itself as animosity, which turns the whole divorce process into a battle, with children trapped in the middle and feeling powerless.
And the reason I know is that I have been through this experience myself with my children so I know first hand how you feel.
I believe that divorce is a process not an event and divorcing or separating needn’t be like this.
Parents can make positive, healthy choices during this very emotional time and make the transition less painful for everyone.
I’ve worked with many parents going through divorce and one of the main worries is how to tell the children about what is going to happen and what to actually say to them and how to nurture them through the very painful, and often traumatic, process without damaging their self esteem and self confidence irreparably.
Children naturally fear that they’ll lose one of their parents in divorce or that their parents will abandon them. They also fear the changes and disruptions that divorce inevitably brings to their family. Also lots of children often blame themselves for the break up.
When a marriage becomes troubled, a couple often relies on old habits of interacting, which lead to fights rather than solutions. If those old habits didn’t lead to constructive solutions during the marriage, they’ll surely reap no better results during the divorce.
So I welcome the new Government approach as it is better all round for the process to be less confrontational.
The changes mean that separating couples will have to attend an initial information and assessment session to see whether it would be better for them to use mediation than to get embroiled in a legal battle over dividing property and agreeing child custody arrangements.
Over the next two years the Government is predicting a sharp rise in the use of mediation for separating couples. To support this move the Ministry of Justice has introduced the new laws in the Children and Families Bill which is currently progressing through Parliament.
Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said:
‘The benefits of mediation are clear – it is quicker, cheaper and leads to better outcomes. That is why we are introducing new laws – which will require couples to attend a mediation information assessment meeting first – to find out more and consider whether it is suitable for them.
‘I want to see separating couples, wherever possible, use mediation. The court should be a last resort when couples are working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children.’
In recent years greater numbers of people have been successfully using mediation – where they are helped to agree the issues between themselves rather than argue it out through lawyers with a judge taking the final decisions – and to support this shift the Government has set aside £25million so more couples can do the same.
Helping with all the issues thrown up by a break up is the new government-funded web app Sorting out Separation, which is the first ever online one-stop shop for separated families. Thousands have already visited the site which aims to help separating parents minimise the impact of their break up on their children.
Mediation can be quicker, cheaper and provide better outcomes than going to court. It allows people to explain their concerns and needs in the presence of a qualified mediator, giving them the opportunity to communicate directly with each other, rather than via solicitors or across a courtroom. It is then they, rather than a judge, who decide a mutually acceptable outcome.
If you’d like to talk to me about how I can help you create a One Page Profile for your family just call my office on 01342 833355 as I’d be delighted to help support you through a very challenging time.
For more information click my article Divorce is a process NOT an event – my technique to make the transition easier for your children.