More people should consider mediation rather than going to court to sort out family disputes, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has told radio listeners.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Minister said: 'Too often people in family breakdowns are using court as a first answer when they shouldn’t.'
Relationship breakdown often involves disputes over children, like residence and contact arrangements. In 2009, there were 137,480 children involved in private law applications, an increase of 14 per cent compared with 2008 when there were 120,500. It is a considerably larger annual increase than seen in recent years, and continues the upward trend.
Family mediation can be quicker, cheaper, less stressful and can provide better outcomes for families and children than contested court proceedings. It is a voluntary and confidential process enabling parties to explain their concerns and needs to each other in the presence of a qualified family mediator. Family mediation provides the parties with the opportunity to communicate directly with each other rather than via solicitors or across a courtroom. It is the parties to a dispute – not a judge – that decide an outcome that is mutually acceptable to them.
Mr Djanogly wants to see family law practitioners improve their knowledge of mediation so that they can help couples be aware and to consider this option. He told the Today programme: 'There isn't enough knowledge within the court system, and I have to say lawyers, as to the benefits of mediation.'