From 6 April, mediation will be required for divorcing couples before attending court. Such compulsory mediation is to be conducted with the aim of resolving any disputes over matrimonial finances or issues regarding their children prior to an application being made to the court.
There are limited exceptions to the obligation to attend mediation such as where domestic violence has been involved and, indeed, even if a divorcing couple attends such mediation, the mediator may determine that the mediation process is unsuitable for that couple.
These significant changes in procedure come following the family justice review, one aim of which is the reduction in Legal Aid for divorcing couples.
The process of mediation in the family law context is designed to help couples identify the issues that need to be resolved and guide them through the decision making process while remaining neutral. Remaining impartial with duties of confidentiality, the mediator tries to facilitate negotiation between the parties.
Mediation has become a useful, quicker and cheaper alternative to court litigation for certain disputes, although we shall await the coming months following 6 April to determine if the compulsory system is an effective one for family law in Liverpool.