Divorce – you go to mediation or you fight in court, right?
Wrong. When there is a divorce, most disputes about children or about money are settled by the couple talking to each other (which costs nothing) or by negotiating between solicitors (which costs money, but not usually a fortune). Only a tiny minority of problems are resolved by the couple fighting it out in court (which can be phenomenally expensive).
But you wouldn’t think so if you listened to the mediators. This is Jane Robey, Chief Executive Officer of National Family Mediation, speaking on ‘The Future of Mediation’ at Devon Mediation Service’s Annual Seminar on 24 May 2012 (I have copied and pasted, but not always the whole sentence. You can find the full text of the speech here):
- mediation is better than litigation as a way of reducing conflict – at least as a first port of call
- And mediation today IS beginning to divert conflict resolution away from the adversarial court system
- we are seeing more people choosing to mediate rather than fight it out in court.
- mediation four times quicker than going to court
- The advantage [of mediation] for couples is that they can see how much their divorce is going to cost before they set out, rather than paying a ridiculous legal bill after a court battle.
There is no mention in the entire speech of the role played by specialist family law solicitors helping couples to reach agreement by civilised negotiation in correspondence. If you didn’t know how the system actually works, you could be forgiven for thinking that if you’re getting divorced there are only two ways to resolve a dispute: mediation (good, obviously) or fighting it out in court (bad, obviously, as it’s confrontational and lines the pockets of greedy lawyers, etc. etc.).
Mel Stride MP seams to have been persuaded. See what he is reported as saying in the Crediton Country Courier (same page as Jane Robey’s speech – just scroll down a bit):
Mediation provides a very important role…and of course it is best to try to resolve problems before they go to court.
I’ve come to expect it. If the subject of mediation comes up, there will be somebody asserting that mediation is a sensible and cost-effective alternative to fighting it out in court. I wouldn’t mind, but most of my professional life is spent corresponding with other specialist family law solicitors trying to negotiate a settlement acceptable to both parties – and in the process to keep costs down and keep the dispute out of court. I don’t much like having my efforts airbrushed out of the public consciousness.