Having just recently completed my re-accreditation with the Family Mediation Council as an accredited Family Mediator, I noted with interest an article in The Times yesterday titled: Divorce lawyers should stop treating mediation as a box-ticking exercise.
I totally agree with the author. Sadly, family lawyers are not actively encouraging and promoting dispute resolution options such as mediation.
My experience from carrying out initial assessment meetings with potential mediation clients that have been referred by their solicitor is that they do not always come to the meeting with an open mind. Instead, they have been told by their solicitor that they just need to show up, get the mediator to sign off the form and then get onto the court case; reducing mediation to a tick box exercise.
This is disheartening. As family lawyers, we have a duty to our clients to give them unbiased advice on all options (depending upon the circumstances), to encourage and promote out of court dispute resolution, where appropriate. This approach is far more cost effective and will allow for a smarter, more dignified divorce/separation.
Some family lawyers are not putting their clients’ needs first but are instead, protecting their own income stream. It’s plain and simple: every case that is converted into a mediation matter is potentially one less litigation case for the lawyer, thus a decrease in fee income.
This is a great shame. Using mediation helps separated couples to make their own informed decisions as to what is best for them, their children and families. It reduces conflict, avoids court proceedings, is quicker and much more cost-effective. Most importantly, it allows for ongoing communication between the separating couple, which is vital. Mediation is child focused and looks at the impact of all possible resolutions on the children of the family. Although not suitable and safe in every case, its use in family law should be championed and not dismissed.