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13 January 2014

Government says new law will keep separating couples away from court

Separating parents and couples will be helped to avoid stressful court battles under a new law being introduced by the government.

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes today set out the importance of the proposed change – in the week of the year when lawyers say more people start to seek a divorce than any other (reports a Ministry of Justice press release).

The first working day in January is known as 'Divorce Day' because of the surge of enquiries lawyers receive after the Christmas break.

The government is introducing major changes designed to ensure that in future separating parents and couples will first consider using mediation to resolve the issues around divorce and separation - like splitting property or agreeing child contact times – rather than fighting over it in court.

Mediation involves couples holding discussions, led by a trained and certified mediator, to reach agreements which both of them are prepared to live with, rather than having them dictated by the court. Couples can then ask a court to consider and make their agreement into a legally binding and enforceable court order.

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

'Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.
 When people separate we want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children. That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them.'

The proposed new law is included in the Children and Families Bill which is currently being considered by Parliament. This seeks to change the process so that a person who wants to apply for a court order about a children or financial matter must first attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).

Exemptions from this requirement will apply, such as where there is evidence of domestic violence.

Statistics show that mediation can help people to reach longer lasting solutions for the better good of any children involved. It can also be cheaper and quicker than taking a battle to court.

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