The number of court cases relating to children has increased significantly since the beginning of 2016, and there is no sign of this trend slowing down. Sir Andrew McFarlane, the most senior family judge in England and Wales, is conducting a review of the system and has said the family courts are having to “run up a down escalator” due to the increased burden.
The president of the family division has said that some parents needs to be persuaded not to bring their cases to court, in order to reduce the pressure and begin to stop the delays that are creeping in to the system. This is not the only reason to think carefully about whether an out of court service may be more appropriate in some circumstances.
Around a quarter to a third of the private law children cases brought to court by parents do not involve domestic violence or raise concerns about the safety of a child. It is these cases that could appropriately be diverted away from the court system to mediation and other out of court services, where negotiated or conciliated agreements can often provide the best solutions for these families.
There are several ways to reach an agreement regarding the arrangements for children upon separation. Mediation gives parents an opportunity to discuss what is best for their children in a safe and constrictive space, as does the collaborative law process. Arbitration allows parents to refer a disagreement to a third party for a binding decision to be made on their behalf, but does not have to involve the often polarising process of a court case. At times, both parents receiving sensible, timely and pragmatic advice from their solicitors is enough to assist them in reaching an agreement directly without further involvement from third parties.
We can assist and advise parents about all of the issues that arise in respect of their children upon separation, and can work within the court system as well as effectively using out of court solutions. To find out more please do not hesitate to get in touch.