Resolution welcomed the interim report on the family justice system in England and Wales published by the UK Government’s Family Justice Review Panel and referred to in this blog yesterday.
“We whole-heartedly agree with the Justice Review Panel’s view that long and complicated legal processes are emotionally and financially draining for parents and distressing for children,” said David Allison, Chair of Resolution.
“The report’s emphasis on encouraging separating couples to consider non-court dispute resolution services, and assessing whether they need parenting information, is potentially very positive. As the report seems to acknowledge, it will be important to ensure that mediation is not seen as a panacea for all couples and that other non-court options such as collaborative law are also promoted.”
The Justice Review Panel proposes to make it compulsory for all parties seeking to litigate to first be assessed by a mediator for suitability for a parenting information programme and for use of a dispute resolution service such as mediation. The mediator would then give a certificate to allow a court application.
“It will be very important to ensure that assessments of separating couples are carried out by trained professionals who are familiar with all types of dispute resolution processes,” said David Allison.
The panel does not recommend that dispute resolution be compulsory, but that courts should take into account what attempts have been made to resolve the issue before seeking litigation.
Resolution also warmly welcomed recommendations including the creation of a unified family court, which would include all levels of the family judiciary, and improved judicial continuity to reduce the extent to which families appear before a different judge each time they go to court.
The organisation said that a proposed online information hub for parents must provide clear information on how family lawyers can help resolve family problems and on the full range of available dispute resolution services.
David Norgrove, Chair of the Family Justice Review Panel, is the keynote speaker tomorrow at Resolution’s national conference which is currently taking place in Cardiff.