The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a press release on 8 December 2013 detailing 10 new projects aimed at assisting separated couples to cooperate on parenting. The press release can be read here.
Separating families often have many issues to resolve, whether in relation to how finances should be divided or how arrangements for children should be managed. It is often a very emotional time for the parties involved as relationship breakdown often leaves one party feeling aggrieved. Family Courts have long encouraged the use of external dispute resolution methods such as mediation to try to reduce the tension and aggravation in these circumstances, although the success of such approaches has been questioned recently, with critics observing that the uptake of mediation has reduced over the last year.
The new projects being introduced by the DWP (valued at £3.4 million) are aimed at helping separated couples to put aside their differences. Many family law practitioners encourage parties to reach an agreement between themselves rather than have recourse to the Court process, and it appears that the DWP are reinforcing this approach with the introduction of these projects. One downfall I foresee with these new projects is that they will not be available for all families, and in fact, which project will be available varies greatly, with the projects separately targeting specific groups:
3,119 families in Scotland;
180 Muslim couples in Leicester, Waltham Forest, and Gloucestershire;
408 couples in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Notts;
120 parents in the Tees Valley;
225 parents in Portsmouth and Hampshire;
4,685 families across England;
832 parents in Berkshire, Yorkshire and Herefordshire;
140 families in Bristol, Avon and the South West;
2,400 families in Lincolnshire; and
100 parents in London
The question must be asked: what provision will be made for everyone not covered by these projects, to try to resolve issues outside of the Court process?
All the lawyers within our family team are Resolution members, committed to encouraging cooperation and negotiation with all clients outside the Court process. We believe it is better for parties to reach an agreement on which they are both happy, rather than putting the decision into the hands of a Judge. There are often cases where recourse to Court is necessary and we would not hesitate in taking this step where required, but the focus needs to be on assisting separating parents to deal with co-parenting and financial issues together where possible and this is something we strive to do.
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