Separating couples to be forced to consider mediation option

From April separating couples will be required to consider whether their disputes can be settled by mediation rather than through the courts, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly has announced. Under a new protocol, agreed with the judiciary, all parties will be required to attend a mediation awareness session, either together or separately, to find out if mediation is appropriate for them. However, in cases where there are allegations of domestic violence or where there are child protection issues, cases will progress straight to court without the requirement to access mediation. Solicitor, Gemma Hughes says: “Clients need to be re-assured this is not a blanket provision. We know mediation won’t be right for everyone. It won’t suit some people, who should be free to explore other avenues including court, or for those in serious or dangerous circumstances, for examples in cases of domestic violence or child protection. 'They will not be prevented from progressing straight to court.’

The protocol, which already applies to legally aided parties, will come into effect for privately funded people from 6 April. Gemma Hughes also comments: “Seeking advice from properly qualified solicitors is essential if clients are to go down the most appropriate route”

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