This National Family Mediation article was written to coincide with Resolution's third Family Dispute Resolution Week, running from 24–28 November 2014.
This awareness-raising week aims to highlight the alternatives to court for separating couples and their families. Support the campaign on Twitter using #abetterway #ResolutionWeek and #familylaw
a few weeks away from the introduction of a compulsory accreditation scheme
which all family mediators will have to work towards if they’re to sell their
services to the public.
reading this would contest that family mediation is increasingly important in
the resolution of family disputes. So news of Government funding that will
enable this key accreditation process to be undertaken is most welcome. The new
system promises to be positive, not just for separating couples and taxpayers,
but for the profession, too. It might also be an overdue one.
Back in the
early 1980s the very first family mediators began to shape not just the
organisation that became National Family Mediation (NFM), but the process and
practice of mediation itself. They passionately believed it could combat the
stress of divorce by helping couples extract a liveable future for themselves
and their children.
Noel Timms once wrote that a new social practice takes 30 years to be
established. And so it is that, some 30 years on, something that might well
have figured on the wish-list of the first NFM practitioners who gave birth to
family mediation is about to come into being.
Mediation Council (FMC) has been charged with responsibility to make it happen.
At long last we are moving towards a new transparent single professional
standard which all
mediators will have to work towards. With central
funding, the FMC is about to establish a separate Family Mediation Standards
Board to monitor and regulate standards operating in the profession.
Recruitment of Board members should begin before Christmas, with standards
defined and shared with practicing mediators early next year.
The reforms follow recommendations made by the Family Mediation Task
Force, set up by Simon Hughes soon after his appointment to the role a year
ago. After the compulsory MIAM and the first mediation session now being funded
where just one party qualifies for legal aid, this is the third stage in the
government’s action plan to improve mediation and encourage separating couples
to use it.
funding to ensure robust accreditation of this out-of-court settlement route
represents a modest but wise public investment. It’s not just the public
confidence it will encourage, but the financial savings it can enable as well.
breakdown is said to cost the economy £46 billion per year, of which it is
estimated nearly £8 billion is directly connected to issues that a more
effective route into out-of-court dispute resolution services could alleviate.
This equates to a cost of well over £20,000 for each of the 350,000 families
reckoned to break up each year. More people trusting mediation means more
people pursuing it, saving money all round, as well as time and stress.