He travelled to Milton Keynes to meet family mediators at Focus Mediation. The professionally trained mediators work with couples and families to reach agreements when they separate or divorce, especially where children are involved.
Mediation can be a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative to court, where couples work through their issues in the presence of a qualified mediator to make arrangements both sides can agree with, rather than putting lawyers and a judge in charge of deciding a couple’s future arrangements.
Mr Clarke said:
‘In the vast majority of cases mediation is a much more sensible way for couples to conduct their separation - it is quicker, cheaper, less confrontational and it encourages people to resolve their issues rather than turning to judges and lawyers.
‘Services such as Focus Mediation play a key role in the future of our family justice system, and are especially effective where children are involved.’
Rules introduced last year mean that separating couples now must complete a mandatory assessment to determine if mediation is a better option for them. The Government has already increased spending on mediation by two thirds, or £10 million, to £25 million each year, to allow separating couples to mediate.
‘Mediation brings couples together in a neutral and non-hostile environment to improve communication and focus on any children’s needs. The impartial mediator helps the couple to resolve their differences and settle child residence and contact, along with every aspect of their financial settlement in a thoughtful and co-operative way.’
‘It can be fast and cost effective and can achieve a huge saving in legal costs - plus people can start to solve their problems rather than fighting over them. It is the best way to end relationships, if they have to end.’
Encouraging separating couples to consider mediation is one of a package of reforms introduced by the Government to encourage people and businesses to take responsibility for their own disputes, rather than turning to the courts. This includes:
A first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years, which will tackle fears that a damaging compensation culture and an unwieldy justice system is costing businesses millions of pounds and deterring deserving individuals from using the justice system. Under the proposals more people will be encouraged to use mediation instead of going to a court hearing
Government leading by example by signing a new Dispute Resolution Commitment (DRC) which means all departments and agencies must consider using alternatives like mediation, arbitration and conciliation first before taking disputes to court. This will build on savings of more than £360m made in the last decade.
Reforming the legal aid system, which is one of the most expensive in the world, so that courts are seen as a place of last resort, not a first choice, and more cases are resolved earlier with different approaches aimed at simpler dispute resolution.
Notes to editors
The new rules which introduced a requirement for anyone contesting the terms of their separation to first consider mediation were announced in February 2011. More details are available in the press release. The rules came into force on 6 April 2011.
For anyone considering divorce or separation, advice on some of the support and services available is at Direct.gov
For more information, please contact the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 020 3334 3536.