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Family Procedure Rules amended – Is mediation the right course of action for you?

Family disputes that end up in court can be an expensive and emotionally weary experience.

While mediation can often be the preferred method of dispute resolution, Family Procedure Rules have not necessarily diverted cases down this route.

However, significant amendments to the Family Procedure Rules have been introduced.

Family Procedure Rules

Family Procedure Rules are the guidelines for how family courts in England and Wales operate. They were introduced in 2010 and came into effect on 6 April 2011.

A committee called the Family Procedure Rule Committee is responsible for making these rules, as outlined in the Courts Act 2003. The Act also allows the Family Procedure Rules to change how evidence is used in family court cases.

The changes

Amendments to the Family Procedure Rules have been introduced in part to lighten the burden on the overwhelmed family courts.

These changes prioritise Non-Court Dispute Resolution (NCDR) options and encourage parties to explore alternatives to traditional litigation.

Increased focus on Non-Court Dispute Resolution

At the heart of the amendments is the drive to divert family-related disputes away from courtrooms.

The revised rules place a greater emphasis on Mediator Initial Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and ensure that potential applicants are fully informed about NCDR options from the outset.

Key changes include:

  • Mediators at MIAMs are now required to discuss a range of NCDR options, including arbitration and collaborative law, alongside mediation.
  • MIAM procedures start earlier in the application process, enabling timely consideration of NCDR alternatives.
  • Courts are mandated to promote NCDR options throughout proceedings, with the discretion to adjourn hearings to facilitate this.
  • Previous exemptions to MIAMs have been restricted or eliminated, ensuring that parties engage with the process unless exempted under specific circumstances.

Is mediation right for you?

When dealing with a family law dispute, mediation can keep an open communication and constructive dialogue between parties, particularly important when maintaining positive interactions with a former spouse or co-parent is a priority.

Mediation can also help in shaping your own solutions, rather than relying on a judge to make decisions on your behalf.

Additionally, mediation offers a private and confidential environment for discussing sensitive family matters, such as child custody arrangements.

Financially, mediation typically involves lower costs compared to the courts, as parties share the expense of a single mediator rather than engaging in lengthy legal battles with associated legal fees and court expenses.

Moving forward

The updated Family Procedure Rules offer parties a thorough exploration of dispute resolution options, supporting efficient and effective resolutions beyond traditional court processes.

Regardless of the updates to these rules, it is important to remember that each case is different, and court proceedings may well be necessary over any form of mediation.

In either case, we are able to provide you with specialist family law advice and cater to your specific needs. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Stuart Daniel

Head of Family Department

I qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and now specialise in divorce, financial settlements, childcare arrangements and Pre Nuptial Agreements. I have many years’ experience as a private family lawyer having worked with two other local firms before returning to Mander Hadley, where I first undertook work experience during my university studies.