Separating couples are to be forced to go to mediation before turning to the courts in the biggest shake up of Family Law for more than 20 years.
At Gepp & Sons the Family Law Department Team are all members of Resolution which is an organisation whose membership commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way. Accordingly Gepp & Sons have always encouraged separating couples to attempt to resolve their differences through mediation and to see court proceedings as a last resort.
There has been research which tends to show that the children of separating/divorcing couples suffer more than the “warring partners” realise. Accordingly the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clark has indicated that the Government will legislate to make it compulsory for anyone wishing to apply to the courts over an acrimonious separation to attend a “mediation information assessment meeting”.
Sources seem to imply that the change would apply to married and unmarried couples, whether disputes were over the division of assets or over access to children. It would appear that the only exception will be cases of domestic violence.
It would appear that one of the reasons behind the Government’s attitude is the fact that ministers are arguing that separating couples should be made to understand the impact of conflict on children and encouraged to reach agreement between themselves.
It is intended that where legal intervention is unavoidable, couples will be obliged to sign parenting agreements to ensure their children continue to have a full and meaning full relationship with both their mother and father.
Whether the Fathers’ Rights Campaigners consider this goes far enough is a matter that will need to be considered once the new law is in place.
It certainly seems that for the first time courts will be told children have a legal right to a full and continuing relationship with both parents.
There was also talk of strengthening the rights of grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren but the Government considers this development might complicate matters. However it is always open to grandparents to seek redress through the courts. Although they have to seek leave to make an appropriate application for contact.
However, it is hoped that any agreement reached between the parents will hopefully ensure that the grandparents do not loose contact with their grandchildren.
Members of the Family Law Department at Gepp & Sons will continue to encourage the parties to consider all aspects of their breakdown and most importantly the effect their breakdown will have upon their children.
If you would like any further advice please contact the Family team on 01245 228106 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment for a Free Initial Consultation.
The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.