Mandatory mediation abandoned for separating couples

The Law Society of England and Wales welcomes the UK government’s decision not to go ahead with mandatory mediation for separating couples, but will instead pilot early legal advice.

Responding to its March 2023 consultation on supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements, the government has pledged to:

  • not make mediation mandatory for separating couples
  • launch a new pilot on legal advice that is specifically designed for parents/carers facing challenges when agreeing their child arrangements
  • extend its private law Pathfinder pilot* to south-east Wales and Birmingham and roll it out to all courts nationally

Law Society vice president Richard Atkinson said: “The government has listened to our concerns and implemented policies which will help families seeking justice.

“Mandatory attendance for mediation could negatively affect the outcome of a dispute. Making mediation voluntary means that domestic abuse victims can be referred to services that can guide them through the right dispute resolution process for them.”

On the new early legal advice pilot, Richard Atkinson said: “Getting a divorce can be a stressful and highly emotional time for separating couples and for those with children. It’s important that a case is heard in the right place, so they can quickly and sensitively sort out their living arrangements.

“We are pleased the government will be using early legal advice to ensure families get the justice that’s right for them, whether it’s mediation, litigation or non-court dispute resolution. Having the conversation early could mean a dispute is settled sooner.”

Richard Atkinson concluded: “The family court system continues to face an uphill battle, with backlogs and delays still prevalent, but we hope these new reforms will go some way towards alleviating the stresses for families seeking justice.”

Notes to editors

* The Pathfinder pilot was launched in 2022 and aims to improve information sharing between agencies such as the police, local authorities and courts. It allows judges to review gathered information and request more documentation before it gets to court. Find out more about the pilot

Mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs) directed by the court have been strengthened, but plans to introduce mandatory mediation before making a court application have been dropped.

Read the government’s proposed family mediation reforms in full

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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