What an interesting coincidence, amid the excitement of the Commonwealth Games, that a recent report about promoting the uptake of family mediation draws on experiences from the Commonwealth to make recommendations about improvements in services in this country.
Between 200,000 and 250,000 parents separate each year. Twelve million children in the UK have experienced parental separation in childhood. With this in mind, the Family Mediation Task Force, headed by Sir David Norgrove, have come up with a series of recommendations to encourage parents to resolve the issues arising from relationship breakdown without going through court.
Norgrove’s report highlights that in England and Wales there is a lack of integration between services aimed at separating parents, of which mediation is one. He recommends that there should be an overarching objective ‘to provide swift, safe and sustainable outcomes for families, through dispute resolution services’ and he sets out the principles which Canada has devised in order to achieve this. These include
- minimising conflict as an overarching goal – all services and interventions outside and within the court system are designed to minimise conflict
- collaboration – all services and family justice professionals are collaborative in their approach
- integrated multi-disciplinary services – all services and interventions for families going through separation and divorce are coordinated, integrated and multi-disciplinary
- early resolution – information and services are available early so problems can be resolved as quickly as possible
A key theme of the report is that services aimed at separating couples work better when they are delivered in an integrated way. This is borne out by the example of Family Relationship Centres in Australia. These were established with the aim of providing information and support for all families, whether together or separated, to encourage better relationships. The Centres were initially prohibited from setting up in close proximity to lawyers offices, but this was found to be unhelpful. Subsequently lawyers developed ways of working together with other professionals in the Centres, and this was found to be more beneficial.
Here at David Gray we have long recognised the importance of inter disciplinary working in helping separated families. Our mediators work with family consultants, financial planners, valuers and pension experts to enable separating couples to work out the best solutions tailored to their own family’s needs. We actively encourage clients who are mediating to take advice from solicitors alongside the mediation process, and will liaise with solicitors to ensure they receive the necessary detailed information to enable them properly to advise their clients. Where appropriate, children can be consulted directly about their views in order to assist their parents in making decisions.
By offering a holistic service we aim to make the transition to a new family situation easier for parents and children alike.