14 July 2023

Jo Edwards quoted in the FT on the Government’s proposal to introduce mandatory mediation in family cases

Head of Family, Jo Edwards, has been quoted in the FT on her response to the UK government’s proposal to mandate mediation for separating couples before being able to make a court application, in an effort to ease the pressure on the justice system.

In the article, entitled ‘Plans to force separating couples into mediation in England and Wales attacked’, Jo explains that couples who plan to go to court face “horrific” waits for cases to conclude.

This was confirmed by the official data published last week which showed that the average duration of private law children cases has more than doubled since 2016 to 47 weeks. However, despite these statistics family justice professionals do not agree that mandating mediation is the solution.

A key area of concern is the risk this would pose for victims of domestic abuse. The Ministry of Justice have stressed that they would not be obliged to attend sessions with their former partner, but Jo questions whether the system would have enough resources to triage effectively.

People working in the family justice system make a broader case for public funding of advice and counselling at an early stage of separations. Such a system would make it “far less likely that agreements will break down later” and end in court, said Jo. More limited reforms may be more likely, however.

The full article can be read here.

Jo gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee on 19 June about the Ministry of Justice’s recently concluded consultation on supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements. Read more here.

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