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Press Release: Family Mediators give views on plans to make mediation mandatory in low-level family dispute cases

Family Mediators from across England and Wales have been giving their views on government proposals which could make mediation mandatory in all suitable low-level family court cases.

The Family Mediation Council (“FMC”) has run six online meetings, giving opportunities for Accredited Mediators to help shape the FMC response to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) proposals.

“Ministers rightly want to see more families resolve their disputes without going to court. The MoJ proposals would bring about a major shift, as they would steer couples away from the family courts,” says John Taylor, Chair of the FMC.

By making out-of-court settlements on money, parenting and property, families will not only avoid additional stress and cost: they will also find that mediation can produce better outcomes for all family members.

“Professional Mediators have views about the way these proposals should work, and it’s vital that Ministers listen carefully to what they say, so they can take their thoughts into account.

“That is why the FMC has, in recent weeks, given Mediators a number of opportunities to come together and discuss the proposals.”

In mid-May, a further joint meeting of the FMC and the Family Mediation Standards Board (which oversees professional standards for family Mediators) drew together the views that had been expressed so far.

“As the home of regulated family mediation in England and Wales, the FMC will publish its response to the consultation shortly,” adds John Taylor.

“Having invited Mediators to contribute to the FMC’s submission, we are also encouraging them to make their own. The FMC will share its final response with all Accredited Mediators before the consultation deadline of 15 June, so they can be fully aware of its contents before they submit their own.”

Notes to editor

1. The Ministry of Justice consultation on private family law seeks views on how the UK Government can support families to agree their child and financial arrangements without going through the family courts. The consultation makes three main proposals:

  • Making mediation a pre-court requirement in low-level family dispute cases.
  • Introducing a power for Judges to impose cost orders, in appropriate cases, on separating couples who do not make a reasonable attempt to mediate.
  • Introducing a requirement for parents to attend co-parenting programmes before going to court, instead of being referred to them by a Judge once court proceedings have started.

The changes form part of the Ministry of Justice’s priority: to reduce demand on the family courts by reducing backlogs and diverting cases away from the courts, and so to spare families and protect children from lengthy and stressful courtroom battles which can have an adverse impact on the development and life chances of young people. Family courts could then better prioritise the more serious family cases – such as those with safeguarding concerns, or where there is domestic abuse.

2. The Family Mediation Council is the home of regulated family mediation in England and Wales. By choosing a Mediator from the FMC Register, a family will be sure to get one who is appropriately trained, who follows the FMC’s Code of Practice, who maintains professional practice by carrying out appropriate professional development activities, and who is supported by a supervisor (known as a Professional Practice Consultant). All FMC Mediators are fully insured, and offer access to a complaints process, if something goes wrong.