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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Force divorcing couples to mediate

The Government is considering forcing divorcing couples to go to mediation before being able to start divorce proceedings. Looking at that quickly, you'd think that was a very sensible suggestion. All of us would think a mediated settlement was better than one obtained from a Court. (By "better" I do not mean a higher figure but one less destructive to relationships and often much cheaper)

The Times reports that Baroness Deech, is opposed. "You can't mediate with a person or couple who is adamantly opposed to it," she said.

"Mediation also tends to be disadvantageous to women, who may be persuaded to enter into agreements far less generous to them than the courts would make; the women are less likely to know what their legal rights are, whereas the husbands may be more well informed and more persuasive; and research shows that female mediators seem to believe husbands more than wives."

She agrees that mediation has been shown to have some benefit in child cases but not with divorce or money cases.

I think that timing of mediation is important. Often in a marriage breakup, there is one party who is shocked, furious or vengeful. This does recede over time especially when we explain how much vengeance can cost! So pursuing mediation immediately is not necessarily the right time for both spouses.

I have taken a straw poll of our 17 divorce lawyers and the view is that almost all of our clients end up with a settlement by agreement (from mediation or negotiation) rather than a Court hearing. But that may have seemed impossible to at least 1 of them right at the start of the breakup.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce lawyer


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