How Will Mandatory Mediation Reforms Protect Vulnerable Children?

Child with their hand covered in paint

For couples going through a separation, mediation is a practical alternative to court proceedings. Licensed mediators are experienced professionals who help couples come to amicable agreements within the fields of finance, childcare, and more. Naturally, this process is far more affordable and streamlined than taking an issue to court and is highly recommended for most low-level family conflicts.

Over the last few years, mediation has become a widespread solution and is highly encouraged as a means to resolve conflicts outside of the courtroom. It has become so encouraged in fact, that many cases require a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) before they can be taken to court. As of March 23rd 2023, the Ministry of Justice has announced that they would look to take the next logical step and make mediation mandatory. Not only will this help countless separating couples resolve their conflicts, but will also go a long-way in protecting vulnerable children – those who frequently suffer most from escalating parental struggle.


The Impact of Courtroom Conflict on Children

Divorce and separation aren’t pleasant occurrences to begin with, but a big factor in the repercussions of this process are the ways in which divorce and separation are carried out. Emotional harm is relatively common for both adults and children involved in volatile cases, with prolonged exposure to conflict often being linked to increased risk of mental health or general wellbeing concerns. A study carried out by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory looked to investigate the long-lasting impacts of parental separation on the involved children by comparing their anxiety and depression rates with that of their peers. By studying over 17,000 children in Wales between the years of 2011 and 2018, their data revealed that the children involved in a private law cohort were 60% more likely to develop depression, and 30% more likely to develop anxiety.

It’s also no secret that a separation can be expensive; between solicitors, applications, and court fees, costs could be well into the five digits with the average price of a divorce in the UK standing at around £14,000. While the financial situation of a family varies on a case-by-case basis, there are few who can comfortably spend this kind of money without it having a major impact on their lifestyle and savings. It’s common that this money has a role to play in safeguarding the future of a child and its loss negatively impacts the financial freedom of the entire family.

By pushing many of these cases to mediation rather than court proceedings, the negative financial and health ramifications can be combatted while still meeting the initial goals of the process.


Exceptions to Mandatory Mediation

It’s important to state that this isn’t the Ministry of Justice’s attempt to phase out private law, but rather a change with the intention of allowing for focus to be placed on the more severe cases that require extra attention. Primarily, this will include cases with domestic abuse allegations, child protection issues, or other reasons for urgency – these will not require mediation and can be taken straight to court.

Overall, the changes suggested by the Ministry of Justice are very positive and will undoubtedly be of benefit to a great many families across the UK whilst also indirectly helping children for whom the issues associated with parental separation have been somewhat underrepresented.


Get in Touch With FMACS

At FMACS, we are experts in resolving couple disputes and helping families come to amicable resolutions across the fields of finance, childcare, and more. Get in touch with a member of our specialist team today on 0330 113 0005.

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