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Changes to mediation: new forms and procedures
A plethora of changes from 22nd April
There are a large number of technical changes which are being made to mediation procedures. These will make sure that mediation is suitable for a greater proportion of separating couples. The changes will also mean that mediation is an integral part of the process, and is fully integrated with any legal procedures which may occur subsequent to mediation.
Child Arrangements Programme (CAP)
The CAP is a very important part of the mediation procedure. Under the new regulations, from the 22nd of April, there will be an additional requirement which will, in most cases, compel couples to attend mediation. There is also an additional requirement that mediators, and those undergoing mediation, follow requirements for their practice. The point of this is to improve the practice of mediation and make sure that all couples are fully aware, and informed, about the mediation requirements. This guidance supplants any previous information, advice and guidance concerning mediation.
Exemptions to mediation
In previous legislation, it was perfectly possible to decide not to undergo mediation under certain exceptions. These exceptions were quite restrictive, but there was some ambiguity as to what those exemptions exactly are. Under the new legislation, the exemptions to mediation are now spelt out in their entirety. This gives new powers to courts in terms of what these exceptions are.
Under previous legislation, the form FM1, which detailed what mediation involved and the procedures required in terms of exceptions to mediation, was a very important document. There will be a new type of FM1 form which will be used in cases of parental responsibility or when a guardian is to be appointed to the child. This form will also cover other situations. For example, if parental responsibility is to be stopped then this form will need to be filled in. In other, exceptional circumstances, such as an alteration in the child’s surname or if the child is expected to leave the country (the United Kingdom) then this form will need to be completed. The latter restriction is designed to prevent parents removing children from the United Kingdom and then keeping them away from this country whilst they are under the legislation of another nation. This will help in cases of child abduction, for example, making it easier to return children to the UK.
A bureaucratic nightmare?
With more forms to fill in, which are longer and more complex, it may seem that the work of a mediator, and of the courts, will be even more stretched. This can be quite worrying for some clients who simply want an easy and efficient mediation process, without all of the trouble of filling in forms. For all clients, we would make clear that our service is designed to give you the minimum of trouble, particularly in terms of completing forms, when undertaking mediation. There is some evidence that the authorities are making things easier for mediators. For example, The CAP now has an easy to follow diagram which explains things in simple terms. There are also reports from the working parties, which explain the details in terms of how decisions have been reached. There is also a simplified parenting plan which is available from CAFCASS.