Legal aid statistics released by the Ministry of Justice have revealed that Mediation starts increased by 22 per cent between April and June 2019 compared to the same quarter last year.
Mediation has been a compulsory requirement in family matters since the government introduced the dramatic reduction in the scope of legal aid in 2012. This came in the form of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and limited the availability for legal aid in family and civil matters excluding huge amounts of people who previously were eligible.
Commenting on the figures, Danny Hudson, partner and family law solicitor at Warrington-based Watsons Solicitors, said the withdrawal of legal aid caused delays in courts as members of the public were not fully aware of the procedures in place.
He said: “This unintended consequence meant that on inspection it was decided that a huge amount of matters could have been dealt with by way of a constructive conversation in a controlled environment and without recourse to the courts.
“It therefore became a requirement that everyone who has issued proceedings has attempted mediation or at the very least had an assessment for mediation unless one of a few emergency exemptions apply.”
Family law expert Danny added the emotive nature of issues surrounding family matters – most commonly money and children – makes the practical realities of mediating a settlement “difficult.”
“People who have reached the point of litigation have done so because they find communication difficult and require assistance,” he said.
“Mediation is based entirely upon two willing participants entering into negotiation to resolve their differences. By the time people reach court or contacting a solicitor, lots of things have been said or done which normally make it extremely difficult to mediate a settlement round the table.”
Danny conceded that while he refers every client who instructs him towards mediation for an assessment, he has few examples of a successful outcome.
He concluded: “In my 15 years’ experience and hundreds of cases litigated, mediation although set up and required with the best of intentions does not work very often in family matters.”
It highlights the reason why you need expert legal advice at an early stage to try and reduce the animosity on separation and guide you to a likely outcome that a court could find in the unfortunate event that litigation is the only way forward.
Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in family law, employment law, wills and probate, and conveyancing.
The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.