Divorcing Couples Shun Courts for Private Hearings

Francis Gibb, Legal Editor for The Times has written regarding delays caused by court closures and that more couples are representing themselves.  No reference is made to the large number of people who choose to use mediation to determine the number of financial cases that otherwise would have gone to court.

The article that has appeared in The Times deals with   “a huge rise in private hearings on divorce”.

In particular it refers to  a “Financial Dispute Resolution”  (FDR) hearing which is a private hearing and falls within the standard timetable for financial remedy proceedings.

Sadly if people are not made aware of the advantages of attending family mediation, then I suspect most of the protracted cases that go to court do eventually determine in the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing which is when the judge is able to give a view.  If the case does not settle at that hearing, the judge has to remove him/herself from the proceedings.  This is actually when the judge has an opportunity to mediate the case  but that occurs many weeks after proceedings have  started.  It occurs to me that  if parties were simply offered family mediation at the early stages of the dispute they would be much closer to considering options for a safe settlement.

It offends me that judges are not willing to address the virtues of mediation for people who are in dispute and who frankly do not have the financial resources or wish to engage in litigation. Nobody seems to wish to  report on the number of cases that return to family mediation following many months of engaging in legal process and who simply run out of funds to finance litigation.  These are the really frustrated people.

The normal scenario that I visit  frequently in my role as an experienced  FMC Accredited and Law Society Accredited Family Mediator is that people lose the ability to communicate.  They need further information and full financial disclosure to give them the opportunity to arrive at a settlement.

At the FDR,  a judge is for the first time in the proceedings available to provide a rational and objective view to assist the parties to settle their dispute but this has to be on the basis their financial disclosure has been dealt with.

The FDR of course takes place many weeks after the case has come to the court.  The majority of litigants within family proceedings will have parted with a great deal of money by this stage and frankly, will have pretty much lost the will to live.

The article describes the virtues of arbitration and which again must involve full financial disclosure. There is no mention of the costs of this and the preparatory work that must take place.

Again, sadly, no mention is made of mediation which is a process that helps people who are in dispute to function and begin to think for themselves rationally and pragmatically. It is not  a difficult process to follow and the mediator is at hand to help keep the lines of communication open with a positive and impartial third party present.

A frequently quoted solicitor is referred to in the article as comparing arbitration with private healthcare.  Where is the human approach towards people who need to feel  listened to  rather than reading about calls for further reform to benefit only a few.

Family mediation is available to everybody. For those who are unable to pay private mediation rates, there remains the opportunity to apply for legal aid to mediate.   I do not think the article reflects the position of most of the people who I meet professionally and who receive a wonderful service which is there to try and help families to rebuild hope for the future.

Please contact Tricia Muzalewski , Accredited Family Mediator at Wynn Mediation.

Contact details:  enquiries@wynnmediation.com or Telephone:  01702 341241

TMM/WynnMediation                                                                                                          December 2017