Has family dispute resolution and divorce mediation become centre stage?

6th January 2022

In the month that we have enjoyed the BBC drama about the Duke and Duchess of Argyll's divorce in the 1960s, we have Family Mediation Week which promotes Family Dispute Resolution and Divorce Mediation. So what does that tell us?

Many of us were shocked at the way in which their divorce was dealt with by the courts and how they were treated as people, particularly Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. Certainly, British society has changed greatly in the last 50 years but many family mediators would say, by not enough.

It is true to say that if you were setting up a family law justice system from scratch you would not start from here. The reason why the courts are involved at all, in what is essentially a private affair in many cases, is due to historic wrangles over issues such as rights to land, titles and heirs. The legacy of this is that many clients still think that the courts are the starting point in a divorce rather than the last resort.

Changing family dispute resolution

However, that does seem to be changing and with initiatives such as Family Mediation Week, which runs from 17-21 January 2022, the benefits of mediation in dealing with separation, divorce and family disputes is becoming more well-known. Certainly the Government and Judiciary seem to be encouraging this. The President of the Family Division has been vocal in his support for family dispute resolution outside the court system and more change is envisaged following the recent wide-ranging report produced by the Family Solutions Group. This advocates a more holistic and multi-disciplinary approach.

In turn, the Government has released significant funds for a £500 voucher for each couple who deal with issues relating to children in divorce mediation. It is not known if the scheme will continue but it has been very popular and, anecdotally seems to have kept cases out of the court.

Given the financial and emotional cost of the court proceedings extracted from the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, let alone their respective children, it is hoped that mediation has, indeed, now become centre stage and public perception is changing further.

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