Litigation over children is not decreasing significantly despite the government’s push for parents to attend mediation. In April 2011, the government made it compulsory for parents to consider mediation before making an application to court in relation to arrangements for children.
The idea was that parents should attend a meeting to find out about the mediation process before they could make an application to court, and that this should significantly reduce the number of court cases issued each year. However, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice, the number of cases has fallen slightly but not dramatically.
In the six month period before the obligation to consider mediation became compulsory, there were 59,093 private law cases involving children in the court system. This number reduced by 2,755 to 56,338 cases in the system in a six month period following the new rule (January to June 2012). There has been a slight reduction but the impact has been far more limited than expected.
Part of the reason for this may be that many parents get around the obligation to mediate by stating that there has been some form of domestic abuse causing the case to be inappropriate for mediation. Alternatively, it may be that those parents who are considering a court application feel too entrenched in their position to actually go through the mediation process even if they have attended the compulsory meeting to learn about it.
Whilst it is sometimes necessary to go to court regarding the arrangements for the children, there are several options available to parents in order to reach agreement and a court application should be considered a last resort.
We offer mediation as well as collaborative law, both of which are processes that allow parents to retain control over the decisions rather than passing them to a judge to decide. It is often the case that decisions made by the parents work far better in practical terms than those imposed by a judge, however difficult those decisions may be. If you would like to discuss the alternatives to court when there are difficult decisions to make regarding your children, please do not hesitate to contact us.