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Mediation is a must for Family Proceedings from 6 April 2011

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You may have heard that the Government plans to make it compulsory for separating couples to attend mediation prior to making any application to court to deal with issues concerning children or finances, to see whether it is possible to resolve their issues without recourse to the courts.

We have now heard from Resolution, the national association for Family Lawyers that the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the mediation assessments meetings will be required from 6 April 2011.  This means that any client who wishes to make an application to the court to deal with, for example, contact or residence issues surrounding their children or applications for financial orders, will have to attend at least one session of mediation to ascertain whether their case would be better suited to being resolved in this way.

Of course, not all cases will be suitable and there will be measures in place to protect against domestic violence and so on.  The Ministry of Justice will be issuing a pre-action protocol by 10 February which will introduce the requirement and set out the details as to precisely the kinds of proceedings that it will apply to and which clients may potentially be exempt.

However, from 6 April, in order that proceedings can be issued, practitioners will have to complete the prescribed form to confirm a client’s attendance at mediation or giving reasons as to why not.

I shall blog further on this on 10 February once the precise further details are known.  However, clients need to be aware that if there is no possibility of settlement in a matter and court proceedings are inevitable, consider issuing the application sooner rather than later to prevent potential delay.

If you would like more information about this please contact Rachel Spencer Robb on 0113 36 3349.

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