The outcome of a poll carried out for Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce and separation, has shown that there is “ill founded scepticism” amongst adults in the UK as to the effectiveness of alternatives to resolving divorce and separation issues via the Courts – with just 50% of the 4000 people taking part in the poll confirming that they would consider an alternative to Court to reach agreement in the event of their going through a divorce in the future.
The poll, carried out by ComRes on behalf of Resolution, found that many members of the public were completely unaware of the different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) available to them in the event of separation and divorce, and thought that Court was their only option – despite the Government seeking to cut the number of couples using the Court system to resolve divorce and separation issues.
ADR options available include both family mediation and collaborative law, along with the relatively new option of family arbitration.[Click here to find out more about family mediation]
Could 115,000 benefit from family law ADR?
There is fear that the public’s apparent lack of awareness of the ADR solutions available will increase both the stress and the cost of the divorce process for many couples. It is estimated that some 115,000 individuals in the UK going through separation or divorce could cut both their stress levels and their legal bills if made fully aware of the alternatives to going to Court to reach a settlement.
Legal aid cuts – reducing take-up of family mediation and collaborative law?
It is suspected that cuts which have resulted in a less legal aid being available to separating couples may be at least in part to blame, causing fewer people to take proper legal advice as a result of which in turn fewer are being steered by solicitors towards family mediation and collaborative law, in particular to help them reach agreement without the stress, delay and expense of court proceedings.
This suspicion appears to be borne out by figures released by the Ministry of Justice in September last year – during the period from the legal aid cuts kicking in during April 2013 to the date of the report just 6 months later, the number of separating and divorcing couples attending mediation sessions in a bid to resolve disagreements dropped by close on 40%.
The poll, carried out last November during Family Dispute Resolution week, also revealed that:-
* 23% of those taking part felt that ADR methods would result in “clear” terms of separation
* less than 25% felt that ADR methods would “protect the right of both parties”
* 50% felt that ADR methods would however be “better for the wellbeing of children” than resolution of issues through Court
* 50% also felt that ADR methods would bring improvements in the “wellbeing of couples”
* 36% had no idea what family mediation actually was
Resolution say that the poll shows a “worrying lack of awareness” amongst the public as to alternative means of reaching settlements in divorce and separation.
For many people, a formal application to court to resolve their divorce or family law issues is going to be the only practical option; but for many other people, other more suitable alternative solutions are available [in particular family mediation and collaborative law] which can reduce the stress involved in the difficult process of relationship breakdown.
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