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24/02/2011 By: Sue Brookes
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly appeared on Radio 4 yesterday to discuss the mediation pre-action protocol, which has been formally announced by the government this week.
With effect from April 2011, it will be compulsory for parties to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting before an application can be made to the courts for orders relating to finances or the arrangements for children. The exception will be in extreme cases where urgent court applications have to be made.
On the current proposals, it will not be compulsory for parties to continue with the mediation once they have attended the initial meeting. Instead, it is hoped that those who attend the initial mediation session will see the benefits that mediation can offer and this in itself will encourage more people to deal with issues on a voluntary basis instead of rushing off to the courts.
The number of people attending mediation has already increased in recent years and statistics show that two-thirds of those who do are satisfied with the process.
When Mr Djanogly was asked why mediation will not be made compulsory here as it is in other countries, he confirmed that the government wants to take one step at a time.
In addition to mediation, it is hoped that the pre-action protocol will encourage people to consider other forms of dispute resolution, including collaborative law. Avoiding litigation altogether will usually be in the best interests of the family, as it helps to avoid the financial and emotional costs that result from the adversarial nature of litigation.