Government seeks to increase use of mediation

Government seeks to increase use of mediation

Ian Walker - Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator/ M

Ian Walker – Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator/ Managing Director

Everyone involved in a family law dispute should try to resolve the dispute without going to court, by reaching an agreement with the other party. Court proceedings are time-consuming, stressful and expensive. And often the court’s decision will not be satisfactory to either party.

But sometimes it is not possible to reach an agreement directly with the other party, or through solicitors. In such cases mediation can be the answer. A trained mediator can help the parties settle the matter without going to court.

And successful mediation is obviously beneficial to the courts, reducing both the number of cases that the overstretched system has to deal with, and the cost to the taxpayer.

The benefits of mediation have not gone unnoticed by the Government, which is now looking to extend its use.

 

Call for evidenceincrease use of mediation mother and children

Last week the Government launched a ‘call for evidence’, seeking views on the best ways to settle not just family but also business and other civil disputes away from the court room, including via mediation. The evidence is being sought from all interested parties, including the judiciary, legal profession, mediators and other dispute resolvers, academics, the advice sector, and court users.

The Government says that responses to the call for evidence “will shape future reforms to civil, family and administrative justice, with Ministers determined to help more people resolve their issues without the stress and cost of a court case.”

In particular, the call for evidence “will examine whether new technologies, as well as services such as mediation … could provide smarter and less adversarial routes for finding resolutions.”

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, said:

“We want the public, families and businesses to be able to resolve disputes easily and with as little stress as possible – avoiding often lengthy and costly court battles.

“That is why I am delighted to launch this important call for evidence which will help shape our plans to harness new technologies and ensure more people can get resolutions in ways that work for them.”

Bringing mediation into the mainstreamfather care proceedings

Obviously, the Government is waiting for the outcome of the call for evidence before setting out detailed proposals as to how the use of mediation and other forms of out of court dispute resolution are to be increased. However, we are given some clues as to what the Government has in mind.

The call for evidence states that the Government’s “ambition is to mainstream non-adversarial dispute resolution mechanisms, so that resolving disagreements, proactively and constructively, becomes the norm.”

They say that this is not simply about diverting people from litigation – the Government wants “to build a more proportionate system by giving people a fuller, more integrated, range of routes to get the best outcomes for their issue. Helping people to access the support they need at the right time to achieve a resolution, bringing disputes to a timely close without such frequent need for court-based litigation.”

Of course, mediation is in a sense already a part of the family justice system, in that anyone wishing to make an application in, or to initiate, family proceedings, has to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’), before making the application. But as its name suggests, a MIAM does not involve mediation, just an assessment as to whether the case is suitable for mediation.

At present mediation itself takes place independently of the court system. It seems that the Government may want to somehow incorporate into the system a mediation ‘pathway’ that a case can take.   

And as indicated above, the Government envisages that new technologies could play a central role in bringing these changes about. The call for evidence suggests that these technologies could include online dispute resolution (presumably in a similar form to the remote court hearings taking place now), and even automated dispute resolution, for example by use of artificial intelligence, although whether this could be used in relation to family matters is somewhat doubtful.

The call for evidence will run until the 30th of September. It will certainly be interesting to see its findings.

For more information about mediation, see our Family Mediation page.

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