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The media, mediation and family law

It has been a very busy few days. The introduction of multiple changes to the family law system on Tuesday attracted an uncharacteristic flurry of interest in the legal intricacies from the national media. After my appearance earlier this week on Sky News, I was interviewed by the Evening Standard on government plans to publish new guidelines on financial needs following divorce.

I told the journalist:

“This position has arisen as a consequence of the abolition of legal aid and the fact that there are now so many non-represented litigants appearing before the courts. But what’s clear to a trained lawyer is clear as mud to an everyday person. If you remove the lawyers and the ability to interpret the law you have to try and make it easier to understand for the people taking part.”

You can read the full article here. But please note – I didn’t advise “the Law Commission on reforms to the legal system”, as the journalist claims! I am simply a member of the Law Commission’s Legal Advisory Group.

The BBC, meanwhile, covered the introduction of the single family court here. The article touches briefly on the introduction of compulsory mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs), and quotes me saying that mediation should be complementary to the court system.

I continued the same theme when I appeared on yesterday’s edition of iconic BBC Radio 4 morning show Today, which also covered the new changes. I explained how I became of the first lawyer-mediators in the country back in the mid-1990s and have been waiting for mediation to take off ever since – but nevertheless, still believe mediation is not an effective substitute for the courtroom. It is complementary to the court process but cannot work as a full replacement. Although the government may beg to differ, most people in dispute with ex-partners and family members want the certainty and clarity of a legal adjudication.

The show is available for listening –for the next few days at least – here. The relevant section begins one hour and 12 minutes in.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Joe says:

    Thank very much for the article Marilyn. It is interesting to read you thoughts, especially on MIAMs.
    Do you think that by having a MIAM, it will help individuals reduce the temptation to self represent themselves in court and in fact assist with the divorce process?

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Joe
      That may be the aim and of course if it means couples can resolve their issues out of court, then that’s great. The figures suggest however that attending a MIAM does not lead to more mediation and couples still exercise their right to apply to the court for judicial resolution. I suspect the real outcome will be more cases being heard by Magistrates as used to be the case years ago.

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