The 'Cost of Family Failure Index' 2016 has revealed that the cost of family breakdowns to the taxpayer had risen by £1 billion to £48 billion, and is still going up. Meanwhile, despite mediation being a legal requirement for separating couples before they can apply for an expensive court order, just 14% of parents were aware of family mediation when they were separating.
At the start of Family Mediation Week (23-27 January 2017), the Family Mediation Association is calling for greater public understanding of the divorce process to better protect children and other at-risk parties, as well as reduce the burden on the taxpayer.
There is a legal requirement to speak to a mediator before applying to the family courts,which was introduced in 2014, because the government and the courts believe that mediation and other forms of dispute resolution can help many more families resolve their differences in a constructive and more cost effective way than bitter court battles.
However,every year thousands of families are still torn apart by expensive and emotionally charged courtroom showdowns, with parents often agreeing on major financial decisions, but arguing over relatively trivial matters. This spirals the costs and increases the damage to any children affected.
Family Mediation Association spokesperson, Beverley Sayers added:
'Family Mediation Week helps raise awareness amongst separating couples that lawyers and courts aren’t their only divorce option. If both parties can stay patient and open minded, there are much better and cheaper alternatives to going to court,including mediation, and collaborative family law and arbitration. These are usually quicker, cheaper and less confrontational than the traditional court process, making a big difference to any kids involved in what is a hurtful time for everyone in the family.'
Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Sir Oliver Heald said:
'I am a strong supporter of mediation and the way in which it can help couples reach agreements and reduce the stress of separation.
In many circumstances Family Mediation has great benefits for those seeking to resolve disputes away from court. I am very keen to see improved information and signposting, so that more people are aware of how mediation can help dispute resolution.'
Day 2 – Mediation: A Safer Space
FMC Code of Conduct 2.3: family mediators have a special duty to try to help couples end their marriage or relationship in a way that minimises their distress, and the distress of any children involved, and in a way that promotes as good a relationship between parents and children as possible.
Day 3 – Mediation: Please Listen
FMC Code of Conduct 5.7.1: family mediators have a special duty to encourage parents to consider the children’swishes and feelings and that all children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the mediation.
Day 4 – Mediation:Put Your Children First
FMC Code of Conduct 5.7.2: mediators have a special duty to pay particular attention to the welfare of any children involved and to encourage all parents to focus on the needs and interests of the children.
Day 5 – Mediation:The Positive Choice
FMC Code of Conduct 2.1 and 6.19:mediators have a special duty to help families work together to reach decisions the family considers appropriate to their own particular circumstances,decisions that are fully informed and freely made, and to help families understand the consequences of those decisions for themselves, their children and other relevant family members.
To find out more about Family Mediation Week,visit www.thefma.co.uk.