Can mediation help ease the growing pressure on Family Courts?

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The pressure faced by Family Courts in dealing with separation arrangements involving children has been highlighted by Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division.

With the number of private cases rising notably, there is cause for concern regarding the capacity to process them and the wellbeing of lawyers and Court staff facing increased caseloads.

Figures indicate that almost one third of separating couples use the Family Court to address living arrangements for children. The Courts will only get involved if the parents cannot agree on where the child should live and the related contact issues. However, there are ways in which parents can seek to resolve their disputes before the Court system is required to intervene.

A popular method of resolving differences between parents is mediation. This involves the parties meeting with an independent, trained mediator who will assist the parents to reach an agreement regarding arrangements for the couple’s children. Alternatively, the parties could attend a round table meeting with their legal representatives to discuss and agree arrangements for children. In both mediation and round table meetings, the ensuing agreement can be drafted into an Order which can be filed at the Court on a paperwork only basis for endorsement.

By encouraging separating couples to consider pursuing such alternative dispute resolution options where appropriate, it may be possible to reduce the burden on Family Courts as well as achieving a satisfactory outcome for all parties without the added stress and delay that litigation can bring.