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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

A year of mediation:  are things any better?

A year seems to go by very fast these days. Yes, I know it is an age thing, but I thought things slowed down when as you got older rather than speeded up? This time a year ago we were anticipating a long hot summer, something promised again by the weather forecasters. Excitement was growing about the first British royal marriage in years as William and Kate prepared to walk down the aisle. And the era of compulsory mediation was upon us.

In a bid to help keep divorcing couples out of costly court from April last year most would first have to see a mediator in a bid to thrash out the details of their settlement without eating into court time. I had a fair amount to say on it around the time through these blogs and I definitely felt things had been pushed through too quickly: where was the list of approved mediators? What standard had they been trained to? I am not in charge though and I conceded that we would have to wait and see how things panned out.

So, here we are, nearly April 2012, and has the mediation revolution swept away all things in its path, including the services of family lawyers? Hardly. Doom mongers who proclaimed it would hit hard the incomes of family solicitors who would not be needed have been proved wrong. Experienced family lawyers are still essential for any individual going through a break-up. They can offer sound advice before someone not knowing what to expect goes into a mediation meeting, and ensure that all the legal ends are tied up in any agreement afterwards. In fact, we have seen what can only be described as a boom in consent order business since last April as clients look to ensure agreements reached are legally binding.

No, a year on and I have more questions than before. There is still no clarity on what qualification makes a mediator, some mediators can charge more than solicitors and there is no guarantee that seeing a mediator will help a couple reach agreement – in which case it is back to the drawing board and has simply made the process longer and more costly.

Mediation remains a good option for some and a valid means of coming to an agreement but whether pushing people down that road is really a good idea is still up for debate in my view.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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