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Jade Quirke
Jade Quirke
Family Solicitor
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The information deficit
Date:31 MAR 2014

Jonathan Smith, Solicitor and Mediator:    

Mediation is underused and the family courts are becoming choked with litigants because Joe Public lacks the relevant legal information (not advice) about the process of the courts and the principles by which decisions of the courts are made.

This issue was canvassed by the Newcastle Centre for Family Studies in their review of the information delivery systems they tested prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce proposed by part II of the Family Law Act 1996. No system met the Government's criteria satisfactorily, so that part of the Act was repealed.

We need to think again of the nature of the information, the means by which it is delivered and by whom. Think on these four discrete issues;

  • advice that might keep a relationship healthy;
  • counselling when problems appear;
  • information about the means by which a parting might be resolved;
  • advice about the procedures to resolve disputes appropriate only to the individual's case.

Only the latter is the territory of family lawyers. They and mediators will signpost the way to personal or relationship counsellors if needed. But mediators can and should provide legal information. The only question is; how?

The full version of this article appears in the April 2014 issue of Family Law.