UK Family Law Reform

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Family Court: Legal advisers leave families in the dark on mediation services

Just one in five of people involved in family law cases funded by legal aid opt for mediation to resolve the dispute, according to a National Audit Office survey.

This is despite the fact that mediation brings "potential benefits for those involved in family breakdown in terms of outcomes that are less acrimonious, quicker and longer lasting than might otherwise have been achieved," the report said.

The Legal Aid and Mediation for People Involved in Family Breakdown survey also found that a third of people involved in family law cases funded by legal aid are not told by their legal adviser that mediation is an option, despite solicitors and legal advisers having a duty to do so.

The report called for the Legal Services Commission to: promote mediation in locations such as libraries; review solicitors' arrangements for providing mediation services; and impose sanctions on mediators undertaking legal aid work who perform poorly.

Margaret Wilson, chair of the family proceedings committee at the Magistrates' Association, said: "We would like to see mediation made mandatory - it's not going to work if it's optional."

The Department for Constitutional Affairs said it supported more use of mediation.

Jane Robey, chief executive of National Family Mediation, said the Legal Services Commission should do more to enforce the requirement that solicitors and legal advisers tell people involved in family law cases that mediation is an option.

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