Mediation way forward supported by Government
When a relationship breaks down, there are several practical arrangements to be made in an atmosphere of highly charged emotions. If the court has to make those decisions, the cost of the divorce and its negative impact on the well-being of the parties increases. When legal aid is used to finance the court process, the taxpayers foot the bill.
If mediation is used this can cut the cost to taxpayers by over £3,000 per case and, more importantly, reduces some of the stress for the couple. Justice minister Simon Hughes explains how the use of skilled mediation will lead to settlements that are more likely to be kept to by both parties.
Under the Children and Families Bill, soon to become law, couples would be required to seek mediation before any approach to the court. Skilled mediators would help partners to reach compromises over such issues as access to children or the division of property. Once completed, the court would then make the agreements legally binding rather than be the arena for distressing battles.
If mediation can reduce stress, lead to arrangements which both parties can keep to and save taxpayers’ money it is surely to be warmly welcomed.
The economy may be having some effect on decisions to seek divorce. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that the number of divorces has been increasing since 2010. Between 2003 and 2009 the figures had been going down.
There is some evidence to suggest that the recession, which began in 2008, has had a delayed impact on relationships. Some couples coped with the extra financial stress only for a while before their relationships broke down under the strain. Others, aware of the costs of separation, may have waited until the economy showed some signs of improvement and their prospects for setting up a new household had improved.
A closer look at the statistics for 2012 reveals that although the average age for divorce is 45 for men and 42 for women, those over 60 when they divorce are not uncommon. Divorce is most likely to happen between four and eight years of marriage.
Simon Hughes, Family Justice Minister, supports the use of mediation to help couples deal with the process of splitting up in the least harmful manner. Rather than battle in the court, which increases stress, couples will be required to first seek the help of trained mediators.