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Penny Booth: Unblocking blocked pipes

Date:2 MAR 2011

Penny BoothWhat a good idea it seems - get everyone to attend mediation and they will talk it all through, come to an agreement and there will be no need to fund so many expensive court hearings as it will all be done by consent - and presumably smoke and mirrors. So - what's the problem?

Not enough mediators, tight timetables, and human haste.

No surprises there, then. People want instant solutions to all their problems, including the dangerously entangled family law ones. It will take more than a change in the rules to get people to change their attitudes, alas. I fear that their expectations of mediation will be more like our rose-tinted cosy chats at the kitchen table anticipated by many in the wake of the original 1996 Family Law Act on divorce reform and less like realistic outcomes from participants who so often do not take their own responsibilities to compromise and share general family responsibility seriously.

I am, however, willing to give it a try because I think - no, I believe - that mediation as an alternative must be given a fair opportunity, and to do that needs time and effort. I just hope that we haven't lost the will to provide both the time and the effort, and that mediation will be supported by HM Government, even in these straitened times. (Hint to HM Government - whilst money isn't everything, some things do require it.)

As Sandra Davis says: "The reasoning behind this is set out in the Practice Direction: 'There is a general acknowledgement that an adversarial court process is not always best suited to the resolution of family disputes, particularly private law disputes between parents relating to children, with such disputes often best resolved through discussion and agreement'".

I sincerely hope that we are not left with just ‘fingers crossed' on this one. There is too much at stake.

I hear that people don't always pay their bills from their solicitor in a timely manner - shock, horror. Seriously, you cannot expect your legal representative to hold everything while you decide to pay the fees due (or not) - they have bills to pay, too. Just a thought: supposing that all those years ago I had become a plumber instead, and that the mad ‘alternative universe' was true after all? Would there be more respect for the work done (and to be paid for) if there was a threat to reinstate your burst pipe or blocked toilet? Possibly so - the environmental effect alone might result in faster action. After all, unlike mediation, what we would have then would be insufficient plumbers, a tight timetable, and human waste. Quite enough to concentrate the mind, methinks.

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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