Divorcing couples to go through mediation before court
Divorcing couples will be sent to mediation sessions to sort out most of their disputes before they are allowed to use the courts, the government said today.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said mediation was "a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative" to the over-worked family courts.
The measures for England and Wales, focused on child custody and financial disputes, will come into force on 6 April.
Domestic violence and child protection cases will still go to court.
Mr Djanogly told BBC: "Nearly every time I ask someone if their stressful divorce battle through the courts was worth it, their answer is 'no'."
Under the change, anyone wanting to use the courts will have to undergo a compulsory mediation assessment session first, which could cost some couples up to £140.
If mediation is not a workable option, for example if one party refuses to take part in it, the case can proceed to court.
However, the government is proposing to cut legal aid for many separating couples and that means that if they cannot mediate after their compulsory assessment, they will have to pay for legal advice and court representation.
Some lawyers have argued that will amount to a denial of access to justice.
Divorce is on the up by 16 per cent and in 2009 more than 137,000 divorce cases were filed.
The cost per client of mediation is £535, compared with £2,823 for court costs and the National Audit Office also found mediation was quicker - 110 days, compared with 435 days for court cases.
Ooops, one day to get married and 435 to get divorced…