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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Money thrown at “wrong end” of divorce

By Andrew Woolley, on Thursday January 17, 2013 at 9:00am

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It has been announced that £10 million more of taxpayers’ money is to be allocated by the Government to help people divorce more easily. There’s an early January headline to warm the cockles of your heart. It came around so-called divorce day, the legendary busiest period for divorce lawyers which always comes in January. Just a week or so earlier, we had people saying it was too easy to divorce, but now the Government wants to make it even easier. How? By subsidising more mediators to help couples thrash out division of assets and arrangements for children without the need to go to court.

On the face of it, many people may think this is to be applauded. More mediators, less time in court. Double win. We have been asking for better mediation services for some time. However, it is not the number of mediators that it is the problem, it is the quality of the advice. And isn’t this targeting extra funds at the wrong end of divorce? This is accepting that people have no option but to split and doing nothing to support those who are going through a difficult time but could/should ultimately be alright. Jumping ship at the first sign of trouble is not always the better outcome for the family.

Instead, why not spend the £10million helping people stay together? More support services, couples counselling, that sort of thing. Alongside this, compel all couples who apply to get married to go on a “how to argue” course so they have a better chance of working out minor differences before they blow up into relationship wrecking events. Surely this is the right end of a marriage to focus on rather than accepting that everyone is going to just split up?

Not sure I see how more funds into mediation will help. There are some very good mediators and they are not all busy all the time now. What we still need is some sort of regulation so clients can see which ones are experienced and trained to a benchmarked standard.

There is one big problem with mediation as I see it. Take a typical, sad example. The husband has an affair for a year or two. He thinks about leaving over this time and decides to tell his wife. She is devastated. They agree to mediation and he’s keen to do it quickly. He has had two years to resolve his feelings. She has had two weeks. This is a very bad time to mediate. The timing should be carefully considered and flexible. It should not favour one party or another.

The word mediation itself can mean many different things. We reckon we “mediate” the majority of our clients’ cases so most don’t have to go to a court. But that is not officially recognised as mediation of course.

And another thing. As the Daily Mail article on this issue says, divorce rates may well be at their lowest rate for years – but so are marriages, so its no surprise is it?

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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