The UK government's recent family law reforms aim to prioritise children's wellbeing during parental separation.
Plans to enforce compulsory family mediation have been halted due to concerns about safeguarding domestic abuse victims.
Instead, a legal advice pilot will expedite child arrangements, addressing barriers to early resolution.
The family mediation voucher scheme has aided over 24,600 families, emphasising the government's commitment to resolving issues without court involvement. Holistic Family Mediation & Coaching is registered for the scheme that gives an incentive to parents to work together (when safe and suitable) in mediation to reach agreements about child arrangements. To stay out of court and in control of outcomes for their children instead of giving decision making power to a bench of magistrates or a judge who does not have any connection with them or their child/ren.
Simultaneously, a more investigative, problem-solving approach, piloted in North Wales and Dorset for cases involving domestic abuse or substance misuse allegations, will expand to family courts in Birmingham and south-east Wales. Judges will review more documents before cases reach court, allowing children additional opportunities to express their feelings.
Judges are set to play a more assertive role in encouraging mediation, with an updated practice direction in force from April 2024. Judges can now pause proceedings and compel parties to attend assessment meetings if mediation is not taken seriously. Closure of a pandemic-era 'loophole' preventing people more than 15 miles apart from avoiding sessions aims to ensure fair participation.
This is welcomed news and reform within the private law family sector, serving and supporting families facing a breakup in a more constructive and holistic manner.
The Law Society vice president, Richard Atkinson appreciates the government's responsive approach, highlighting the importance of voluntary mediation to guide domestic abuse victims to the right dispute resolution process. The early legal advice pilot is welcomed, recognising the stress of divorce and the need for timely and sensitive dispute resolution.
Beverley Sayers, from the Family Mediation Council board, supports government actions encouraging early mediation, emphasising the voluntary nature of the process.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division, reinforces the idea that court should be a last resort, with genuine benefits likely from the proposed initiatives to assist separating parents promptly.
In summary, the proposed family law reforms reflect a nuanced approach, prioritising children's wellbeing, and balancing mediation with legal paths. The emphasis is on early resolution, with judges playing a more active role in steering parties toward mediation. Sir Andrew McFarlane's statement underscores the importance of parental responsibility in the welfare of children, positioning the court as a last resort.
If you are curious about how Holistic Family Mediation & Coaching can help support you and your family through separation and/or divorce, you may wish to consider our FAQs page for more information and/or book in a Free Discovery Call via our services page.
If you'd like personalised support on your separation and/or divorce journey, I'm here for you as your dedicated holistic life coach. Let's navigate this path together with grace and empowerment. Please complete and submit the Coaching Referral Form and pay for coaching either on a pay as you go basis for individual sessions or purchase a package of six for the price of five sessions via our services page here.
Alternatively, if you are ready to get the ball rolling with my family mediation service, please complete and submit a Self-Referral Form and book your initial separate Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) online.
We will then get in touch with your ex-partner (unless requested to hold off any communication at this stage) to encourage them to engage in the process highlighting the benefits of family mediation - low cost, staying in control and to have a quicker resolution compared to court based proceedings.