Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has urged separating couples to consider mediation when they separate or divorce, instead of turning to the courts.
Mediation can be a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative to court, where couples work through their issues in the presence of a qualified mediator to make arrangements both sides can agree with, rather than putting lawyers and a judge in charge of deciding a couple's future arrangements.
Rules introduced last year mean that separating couples now must complete a mandatory assessment to determine if mediation is a better option for them. The Government has already increased spending on mediation by two thirds, or £10 million, to £25 million each year, to allow separating couples to mediate.
Encouraging separating couples to consider mediation is one of a package of reforms introduced by the Government to encourage people and businesses to take responsibility for their own disputes, rather than turning to the courts. This includes:
- A first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years, which will tackle fears that a damaging compensation culture and an unwieldy justice system is costing businesses millions of pounds and deterring deserving individuals from using the justice system. Under the proposals more people will be encouraged to use mediation instead of going to a court hearing.
- Government leading by example by signing a new Dispute Resolution Commitment which means all departments and agencies must consider using alternatives like mediation, arbitration and conciliation first before taking disputes to court. This will build on savings of more than £360m made in the last decade.
- Reforming the legal aid system, which is one of the most expensive in the world, so that courts are seen as a place of last resort, not a first choice, and more cases are resolved earlier with different approaches aimed at simpler dispute resolution.