New figures obtained by National Family Mediation show that government policy aimed at promoting mediation as the preferred way of settling disputes over parenting, finance and property has failed.
Since 22 April 2014 attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) has been compulsory before a separating couple can apply to the court asking a judge to sort out their finances.
However, figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice show that in 2014/15 only one in 20 applications for applications for private law proceedings to a family court followed the new 'compulsory' route – fewer than 5,000 MIAMs from over 112,000 private law applications.
National Family Mediation Chief Executive, Jane Robey, said:
"By requiring separating couples to attend a mediation awareness meeting, the government's aim was to introduce a cheaper and less confrontational alternative to court. But with fewer than one in 20 of couples even attending the initial meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion, the law has failed.
"We genuinely welcomed the law change requiring couples to explore mediation as an alternative to combative court proceedings. We knew it could not transform the culture of divorce on its own, but these figures suggest even this small government step has flopped.
"National Family Mediation and the mediation community alone cannot change the entrenched culture of adversarial and expensive court proceedings in divorce cases. More government support is needed to inform, educate and publicise the fact that MIAMs are compulsory in order to ensure the law is properly enforced and much more mediation is delivered.
"It's not just that this is a law, the truth is that settlements negotiated through mediation offer a brighter future for separating families up and down the land.
"And given the well-publicised crisis of the clogged up family courts, one would think judges would have welcomed the changes and exercised their powers to take best advantage of the changes. That does not appear to be the case."
Crallan Family & Divorce Solicitors is a specialist independent firm of solicitors working exclusively in family law, offering a premium quality matrimonial and divorce law service. We believe that it is important that you should always be able to speak directly with your solicitor and receive premium service. With offices in Bath, Bristol and London we’re always on hand for you.