Minister Jonathan Djanogly has said that more use should be made of mediation as an alternative to using courts in civil and family justice disputes.
Writing in the September issue of the Government Gazette, the junior justice minister said: "All too often court has been seen as the first, rather than the last, resort for dealing with disputes. We want to encourage people in disputes to play a greater role in resolving them themselves, in both civil and family issues."
Addressing the issue of mediation in the family justice system the minister said: "Particularly in relation to family cases where decisions about contact and residency of children are being made, we must ask whether a court is the most appropriate setting. I firmly believe that we need to look at the role mediators can play, so that more families can sit down and come to agreements without the cost and disruption often caused by lengthy court cases. Our evidence shows that mediation can be quicker, cheaper and provide better outcomes than going to court."
"By working closely with dispute resolution providers, the judiciary and the legal profession, we have the opportunity to pave the way for reform," the minister concluded.
Mediation is one option being looked at for the Government in the Family Justice Review chaired by David Norgrove. The review was announced as part of the cross-government Families and Relationships Green Paper, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in January.
The panel will make recommendations in two key areas: providing better information to promote fair settlements and agreements between family members; and whether improvements need to be made to the way in which the family justice system is managed.
Practitioners interested in submitting evidence to the Family Justice Review should do so Thursday by 30 September.