Building on the last two successful years, the national awareness week for family dispute resolution has again returned.
Launched by Resolution, the aim of the initiative is to raise awareness of the alternative ways in which a family law dispute can be resolved without court proceedings, which is costly in terms of money, time and stress.
The courts actively encourage parties to consider whether there is a better way to resolve their issues by making mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM) compulsory before an application can be issued at court for financial and/or children matters. A MIAM will involve a meeting with a mediator to discuss the different dispute resolution options available, such as direct discussions between the parties or through their legal representatives, mediation, arbitration and the collaborative procedure.
Mediation in itself is not compulsory, so a judge cannot order parties to attend. A judge can, however, adjourn an application to enable non-court dispute resolution to take place. Currently, judges still require the parties’ permission to order an adjournment for dispute resolution, but there are plans to amend legislation by removing the need for permission.
In a recent case, Mann v. Mann, Mostyn J said:
“Parties could not be compelled to engage in the mediation…the court could robustly encourage engagement by means of an order in terms that failure to justify a decision not to engage in mediation could result in costs sanctions. This could be so even if the refusing party were ultimately successful in the proceedings.”
With this in mind, members of Resolution will be organising events and raising awareness across the country this week. These events will demonstrate non-confrontational methods for resolving family disputes, ranging from deciding when children spend time with each parent to working out the division of matrimonial assets. The effects of separation have far reaching consequences, not only for the separated couple but particularly for children within the family.
Research has been carried out on the direct and indirect effects of separation on children, who often feel that changes to their secure world create a sense of loss. This can be on a practical level if their home is sold but also, emotionally as they come to terms with the fact that the life they once knew is no longer the same. Those effects will depend on how parents manage their separation and the support that is offered to children. Four out of five parents polled for a study by Netmums thought that their children had coped well with the break-up – a sentiment shared by only a third of the children polled.
Resolving disputes through less confrontational means will help not only the parent but children too as they come to terms with changes in their life.
Lindsay Halliwell is a Senior Associate in our family law team and is committed to approaching disputes in a non-confrontational way and assess with each client which method(s) of dispute resolution will be most effective for them.
For more information, please contact us on 01202 294566.
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