Families and Relationships Green Paper: Improving the family justice system?

I have been perusing the Government's Families and Relationships Green Paper, which was published today. The interesting part from the point of view of a family lawyer was the section on 'Improving the family justice system', beginning at paragraph 4.29. Essentially, this comprises to the following:
  • A 'comprehensive review of the family justice system', which will 'focus on the management and leadership of the family justice system and what can be done to promote informed settlement and agreement of family law cases outside of the court system' (Para 4.32);
  • In order to ensure that everyone involved in family proceedings is aware of the benefits of mediation as an alternative means of resolving disputes, the Government will promote mediation online and 'will explore other means of reaching families with mediation information earlier' (Para 4.35);
  • The Government will also seek views 'about whether mediation assessment should be made compulsory for parents who go to court to seek to resolve residence or contact disputes, where it is safe to do so' (Para 4.36);
  • 'The Government will work with the Family Mediation Council to build on accreditation schemes for mediators' (how these will differ from existing schemes is not made clear) (Para 4.37);
  • 'The Government will improve the information available for grandparents about the legal and other options available to them in seeking to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren' (Para 4.38); and
  • The Government will remove the requirement for grandparents to obtain the leave of the court before making an application for a contact order (Para 4.39).
I'm not sure what all of this boils down to: a review, the result of which we will not know until next year; possible compulsory mediation, which any family lawyer will tell you is not a panacea, and removing the requirement for grandparents to obtain leave before applying for contact. Hardly revolutionary...


  1. I'm sure compulsory mediation is no panacea, but it is interesting how many people are now aguing for it. In his book Taken Into Custody Stephen Baskerville points out that no one agrees to anything in mediation if they think they can get a better deal in court; someone else (I forget who) said that all mediation takes place 'in the shadow of the law'. In other words, mediation is only as good as the law is. Perhaps the proposal made by Sandra Davies of Mishcon de Reya that litigation be made almost prohibitively expensive has some merit.

  2. That's easy for her to say - her clients could still afford it!

  3. I agree that no-one would go for mediation if they thought they would get a better deal in court. It is also quite harmful to anyone who has suffered any kind of abuse, including emotional abuse from a partner. It is perfectly possible for an accomplished abuser to continue abusing during mediation. Lying with impunity in a calm fashion which gets the other party all riled up thus making them appear uncooperative. My alcoholic partner sat and calmly lied about the amount of time he normally spent in his children's company, he lied about my behaviour, he lied about how well his business was doing. All this is dealt with much better in court.


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