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23/01/2018 By: Alison Bull
Launching during Family Mediation Week, Manchester Family Court has introduced a new pilot scheme that encourages separating parents to sort out their disagreements outside of the courtroom.
The main driver of the new scheme is to help children caught up in disputes. The damaging and lasting impact that parental conflict has on children has been confirmed time and again; this scheme should help reduce that. The Designated Family Judge in Manchester, Her Honour Judge Newton, has praised the pilot saying:
“It is almost always best for children if separating parents can manage to reach sensible agreement around the future arrangements for their children. This innovative scheme offers parents the opportunity of professional support in resolving their disagreements. I am very pleased that the Family Court at Manchester is able to promote this approach”.
If you and your ex are disagreeing about how the arrangements will work for children now that you are separating, you may find yourself making an application to the Manchester Family Court and asking a judge to resolve your dispute. However, from 22 January 2018, and before a judge makes any final decision, the pause button may now be hit. The judge will consider whether it would be better for you and your ex to find out more about mediation at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or “MIAM”. If the judge decides that would be best, then the court proceedings will be paused allowing you both time to go to a MIAM and to learn more from a mediator about how mediation and other “non-court dispute resolution” might be able to help you sort out the issues that have brought you to court. The judge cannot force you to mediate (because that’s a voluntary process) but if, after going to your MIAM, you, your ex and the mediator agree it would be useful to have a joint mediation meeting, then that meeting can take place. If you then reach an agreement out of court, for example in a joint mediation meeting, then you can ask the court to make an order confirming any agreement you and your ex have reached, which is likely to be much quicker than asking a judge to decide, and should help your children.
To find out more about mediation and the Manchester Family Court pilot, contact Alison Bull or any of our Manchester specialist family lawyers.