Family law is an area of law that deals with legal issues arising from family relationships, such as divorce, child custody, child support, adoption, and other matters related to family dynamics.
In the UK, mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that can be used in family law cases to resolve disputes outside of court. In this article, we will explore the benefits and disadvantages of mediating family law disputes in the UK and how ADR fits into the UK legal system.
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where parties to a dispute work with a neutral third party, called a mediator, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The process is voluntary, confidential, and flexible. Parties can agree on any solution that works for them, and the mediator helps them to craft an agreement that meets their needs and interests.
Mediators are not all regulated and their activities are not controlled in any way. Anyone can call themselves a mediator although some mediators do have professional qualifications.
The Law Society Family Mediation Accreditation is a recognised quality standard for practitioners who carry out mediation.
The Law Society is a member organisation of the Family Mediation Council (FMC)
One of the benefits of mediation in family law disputes in the UK is that it can be less expensive than going to court. Litigation can be costly, with legal fees, court costs, and other expenses adding up quickly. Mediation can often be completed in a few sessions, which can save parties time and money.
Another benefit of mediation is that it can be less adversarial than going to court. Family law disputes can be emotionally charged, and litigation can exacerbate tensions between parties. Mediation provides a safe and structured environment for parties to express their concerns and work towards a resolution. The mediator can help to defuse conflicts and keep the conversation focused on problem-solving.
Mediation can also be less time-consuming than going to court in the UK. Litigation can take months or even years to resolve, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. Mediation can often be completed in a few sessions, which can be scheduled at times that are convenient for the parties.
Mediation can be less formal than going to court. In court, parties must follow strict rules of procedure and evidence. Mediation allows parties to have more control over the process and to craft a solution that works for them. Parties can be creative in their solutions and are not bound by legal precedent or strict rules of evidence.
Mediation can also be a more private and confidential process than going to court. Court proceedings are open to the public, and court records can be accessed by anyone. Mediation is a confidential process, and the mediator cannot disclose what is said in the sessions without the parties’ consent.
Despite these benefits, there are also some disadvantages to mediating family law disputes in the UK.
One disadvantage is that the mediator cannot impose a decision on the parties. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not have the power to make a ruling that is legally binding. If parties cannot reach an agreement in mediation, they may still need to go to court to resolve their dispute.
Another disadvantage of mediation in the UK is that parties may not have access to legal advice during the process. While parties can consult with attorneys outside of the mediation sessions, they may not have their attorney present during the mediation itself. This can put parties at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with the law or the UK legal system.
Mediation also requires a certain level of cooperation between the parties. If one party is unwilling to participate in mediation or is uncooperative during the process, mediation may not be successful. In such cases, parties may need to resort to litigation to resolve their dispute.
In addition to traditional mediation, there are several other types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that can be used in UK law disputes. These include arbitration, collaborative law, and negotiation.
Arbitration is a process where parties to a dispute present their case to a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, who makes a legally binding decision. Like mediation, arbitration can be less expensive and less formal than going to court. However, the arbitrator’s decision is final and legally binding, which means parties may lose their right to appeal or challenge the decision.
Collaborative law is a process where parties work together with their lawyers and other professionals, such as financial advisors or mental health professionals, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This process is often used in divorce cases in the UK and can be less adversarial than going to court. However, like mediation, collaborative law requires a certain level of cooperation between the parties.
Negotiation is a process where parties to a dispute work together to reach an agreement without the involvement of a neutral third party. This can be done through informal discussions or formal negotiations. Negotiation can be less expensive and less formal than going to court, but it also requires a certain level of cooperation between the parties.
In the UK, ADR is encouraged by the courts and is often used as a first step in resolving disputes. The Family Procedure Rules 2010 and various amendments require parties to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can apply to the court for certain types of family law disputes.
The following Family Rules and Practice Directions apply :-
Family Procedure Rules PART 3 – NON-COURT DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Family Practice Direction PRACTICE DIRECTION 3A – FAMILY MEDIATION INFORMATION AND ASSESSMENT MEETINGS (MIAMS)
The purpose of the MIAM is to inform parties about the benefits of mediation and other forms of ADR and to assess whether mediation or another form of ADR is appropriate for the case.
If parties do not reach an agreement through mediation or other forms of ADR, they may still need to go to court to resolve their dispute. However, even if the case goes to court, parties may be required to attempt mediation or other forms of ADR before the court will hear their case. This is known as “compulsory ADR” and is intended to encourage parties to resolve their dispute without the need for court intervention.
Mediation and other forms of ADR are not just limited to family law disputes in the UK. They can also be used to resolve disputes in other areas of law, such as civil law.
Civil law disputes can include a wide range of issues, such as breach of contract, negligence, property disputes, and employment disputes. Mediation and other forms of ADR can be used to resolve these disputes, as well as family law disputes.
In civil law disputes, parties may choose to use mediation as a way to resolve their dispute before going to court. This can be a less expensive, less formal, and less time-consuming option than going to court. Mediation can also allow parties to maintain a more amicable relationship, which can be important in business or employment disputes where ongoing relationships may be necessary.
Other forms of ADR, such as arbitration and negotiation, can also be used in civil law disputes. Arbitration can be a more formal and legally binding alternative to mediation, but it can also be less expensive and less time-consuming than going to court. Negotiation, like in family law disputes, involves parties working together to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without the involvement of a neutral third party.
The UK legal system encourages the use of ADR in civil law disputes as well. The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 require parties to consider ADR before going to court. This means that parties must show that they have considered ADR, such as mediation or arbitration, before going to court.
If parties do not reach an agreement through ADR, they may still need to go to court to resolve their dispute. However, even if the case goes to court, parties may be required to attempt mediation or other forms of ADR before the court will hear their case. This is intended to encourage parties to resolve their dispute without the need for court intervention, which can be a more costly and time-consuming option.
However, mediation requires a certain level of cooperation between the parties, and the mediator cannot impose a legally binding decision on the parties. Other forms of ADR, such as arbitration, collaborative law, and negotiation, may also be used to resolve family law and civil law disputes.
The UK legal system rightly encourages the use of ADR and may require parties to attempt mediation or other forms of ADR before going to court.
In conclusion, mediation and other forms of ADR can be effective tools for resolving family law and civil law disputes in the UK. Mediation can be less expensive, less adversarial, less time-consuming, less formal, and more private than going to court.
Read our review of Gavin Howe Barrister
- Senior President of TribunalsThe Senior President of Tribunals is the independent and statutory leader of the tribunal judiciary. The office of the Senior… Read more: Senior President of Tribunals
- Solicitor GeneralThe Solicitor General is the second law officer of the Crown in the United Kingdom, after the Attorney General. The… Read more: Solicitor General
- R v Sussex Justices“It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but… Read more: R v Sussex Justices
- What is Section 35 ABCP Act 2014 ?Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 grants police officers the power to direct a person… Read more: What is Section 35 ABCP Act 2014 ?