Introduce measures to help separating people reach agreement out of court
Resolution believes that, where possible, separating couples should be able to resolve their disputes without going to court.
We welcome the current Government’s commitment to helping people access mediation and support its introduction of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) to ensure most people consider mediation before applying to court. However, the Government’s intentions are not reflected in policy outcomes – publicly funded mediation numbers are down by 45%, and unrepresented parties coming to court are on the rise.
The Government has focused its attention on mediation as the only alternative to court. But for some couples, other dispute resolution options such as collaborative law, solicitor negotiation, arbitration, or helping people reach agreements themselves can work better for their circumstances, while keeping families out of court and minimising conflict. There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ divorce or separation and people need to be aware of all of the options so they can choose what is right for them.
Resolution recommends that Government:
Changes the way MIAMs are described and delivered. We recommend that MIAMs are renamed ’Advice and Information Meetings’ (AIMs), to make clear that they are not solely focused on mediation. This is reflected in the recommendations of the Mapping Paths to Family Justice Report.
Make AIMs available earlier in the separation process, before an application to court is considered. This would enable couples to find out at the outset about available options and choose the right one for them. This is common practice among Resolution members, and we believe this approach should be available to everyone.
Extend the availability of legal aid for all dispute resolution options. People should be able to choose which out of court method will be most suitable for them, with funding available for the use of one chosen method – not just mediation.