Start looking ahead to the school summer holiday now!
And make suitable parenting plans well in advance, in May or June. That’s the recommendation made by National Family Mediation CEO, Jane Robey.
In the latest of her regular articles for Family Law, she explains why.
Her article outlines how a Parenting Plan works, and how flexible it can be. That’s important because as children grow up their needs change. Therefore, her advice to separated parents is to take some time right now. That way they can head off last-minute summer panic.
A number of factors force separated couples into crisis during the summer, including
- changes in established daily routines, and
- the expense of keeping family members entertained.
Pick-up, drop-offs and living arrangements can be exposed as inadequate in the long holiday period. Frustrations and resentments resurface, with children caught in the middle.
A Parenting Plan, agreed by both parents and with flexibility built in, is easier to achieve than many people think.
It’s an agreement made by separated parents, covering how the children will be supported and cared for after separation or divorce. It’s easier to agree a Plan between the two of you than many people think. Its value is that you both tailor it to suit your own circumstances.
Arguments about the process underpinning the UK’s ‘divorce’ from the European Union must not be allowed to delay new ‘no fault divorce’ laws that would make it easier for couples to divorce. So says the largest provider of post-divorce solutions on parenting, money and property.
National Family Mediation fears the changes could become another victim of Brexit, while Parliamentarians struggle to agree terms of the UK’s ‘divorce’ from the EU.
Ministers have announced plans to legislate to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce, yet The Ministry of Justice has confirmed it will only happen “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.
No fault divorce
National Family Mediation CEO, Jane Robey, says: “Plans to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce are very welcome, and long overdue. But our fear is they will become still more overdue as a result of the Parliamentary timetable being log-jammed, ironically by the UK’s own divorce – from the EU.
“Brexit delays must not be allowed to stop tens of thousands of couples who want to divorce being able to get on with it relatively painlessly, now that Ministers have set out plans to change the law.
“The current legal need to prove a spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ fuels bad feeling between a couple. Our experience is that couples who, for whatever reason, have decided to separate just want to get on with it and make a fresh start. Yet current laws where someone has to tick a box to show ‘fault’ mean cases that should be relatively simple instead escalate to full-blown courtroom battles, which help nobody – least of all the children involved.
“For each and every adult involved, the stress, time and expense involved is staggering, and this vital change should help many more parents settle their divorce or separation in a more mature and adult fashion than the current system allows.”
National Family Mediation is delighted to confirm it has been selected by LexisNexis as the charity partner for the Family Law Awards 2019.
Chief Executive, Jane Robey, said: “In recent years the Family Law Awards have become highly prestigious celebrating, as they do, the success and achievements of family lawyers and the vital contribution that they make to society.
“It is an honour for NFM to have been asked to be event partner charity for 2019.”
This year’s event takes place on Wednesday 27 November in central London. Entries for the awards are open until midnight on Friday 7 June.
You can view the categories and submit your entry on the Family Law Awards 2019 website
You can now download some quick and simple guides to how family mediation can help you.
And, using the form at the foot of this page, you can order free hard copies by post.
Use these links to download the guides (each is a two page A4 PDF file):
To download Welsh language versions of these leaflets, use this link
You can order hard copies of these leaflets by post – simply complete the form below:
Grandparents play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren, and it’s usually a positive thing if they can stay in touch with them after a separation or divorce.
In a new article for Family Law, NFM’s Chief Executive Jane Robey outlines the importance of ensuring grandparents don’t become the unwitting or forgotten victims of divorce.
Some relatively minor changes to existing family mediation processes could transform the numbers of people successfully making agreements, says the CEO of National Family Mediation.
In a new article for Family Law, Jane Robey explains how evidence shows that pre-mediation coaching considerably improves the readiness of people to mediate. She says the improvements it brings to communication skills “prepares separating couples to enter the process with a transformed mindset.”
She explains how “this model of pre-mediation coaching can prevent families degenerating into damaging prolonged conflict, and I want to see Ministers think outside the box.”
Commenting on the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Support Action Plan, which follows the government’s review into the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said:
“This is a missed opportunity: a very disappointing outcome to a process into which many professional organisations and individuals invested considerable time and ideas.
“We note there is a promise of more money for litigants in person. We sincerely hope this translates into considerably more resources for those organisations such as ourselves which are working with these people and providing accurate and bespoke information and guidance free of charge.
“The report offers a number of broad, wishy-washy statements and recycled money which kick down the road the can of effective support to those who most need it.
“We are afraid that offering legal help hubs in GP practices smacks of a bid to create an eye-catching distraction from the real issues at stake for people suffering the consequences of being denied legal aid.
“The delay in reviewing legal aid eligibility is baffling: all Ministers need to do is increase the threshold to allow more people access to legal aid: and this would be a great help in driving up numbers going into mediation which is, after all, supposed to be a government priority.
“Our nationwide network stands 100 per cent by our collective submission to the LASPO review, and we will continue to diligently put forward our ideas to transform the landscape for children and adults in separated families.”
Modernising the language used in the divorce process has to figure as part of the government’s proposed legal reforms, says National Family Mediation’s Jane Robey.
The last thing people need at their time of crisis is to have to get to grips with a new set of legal jargon – words like ‘affidavit’. ‘plaintiff’ and ‘respondent’ – simply in order to move on with their lives.
In the latest of her regular articles for Family Law, our Chief Executive comments further on the government’s consultation on divorce law reform.
The government has announced its intention to reform divorce law, with the intention of ensuring a less confrontational process, and has launched a consultation document, ‘Reducing family conflict Reform of the legal requirements for divorce’.
Submissions are invited, with a deadline of 10 December 2018.
The consultation document is available using this link
The MOJ news release announcing the consultation can be viewed here.
It won’t be difficult for the government to achieve its aim of increasing the numbers of separating families using family mediation to settle disputes, says a leading family charity. But it hinges on Ministers taking hands-on action to get family courts to more effectively use the powers they already hold.
In its submission to the government’s Post-Implementation Review of the 2014 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), National Family Mediation (NFM) says: “We believe that boosting mediation numbers would not be difficult since court powers already exist which would help meet this aim.”
The charity’s CEO, Jane Robey, says: “We know government thinking is completely dominated by Brexit. But no new legislation is needed: just the proper enforcement of existing court powers. And we know the purse-strings are tight, but this type of action would cost nothing.
“Stronger monitoring and a more proactive government approach to enforcement would, we believe, transform the situation and avoid the embarrassment for Ministers of their current policy dying on its feet.”
The submission outlines a range of negative impacts that have been felt by family mediation providers as a result of the LASPO Act, and proposes a number of remedial actions that could help the government improve the take-up of family mediation. Central to these are a series of measures to strengthen the proactive involvement of courts in encouraging separating families to use mediation, including:
- Courts should always properly check the respondent has been approached, rather than allowing a situation where forms have simply been signed to smooth the applicant’s route to court.
- There needs to be a court focus on promoting and supporting mediation and ensuring that all applicants and respondents to court have at the very least attended a MIAM before they have an appointment with the court.
- The charity’s experience is that magistrates, judges, and court officials are bypassing the necessary process of getting the C100 and Form A paperwork signed by a mediator at a MIAM
- There is no evidence that courts have altered their practice and embraced the revised procedure rules or child arrangements programme that would prove pivotal in transforming the culture of litigation in divorce in this country.
Key to the charity’s submission is its belief that an increase in the take-up of family mediation can help achieve three of the four objectives the then-coalition government had when establishing LASPO:
- To discourage unnecessary and adversarial litigation at public expense
- To make significant savings to the cost of the scheme; and
- To deliver better overall value for money for the taxpayer.
NFM’s submission follows consultation with its members and affiliates, and also includes a number of suggestions for government action which WOULD require legislative or funded measures, including:
- Provide some financial incentive for solicitors to refer to mediation – at present the main incentive they have is to find evidence of domestic violence to fund an application to court.
- Review and increase Legal Aid rates for mediation providers, in order to avoid the supply of mediators drying up completely.
- Introduce a system to register mediated agreements with the court so that if they don’t work and clients want to go to court next rather than review in mediation the courts have a non-adversarial starting point.
- Reinstate some form of funding to ascertain the willingness of the respondent. Fund MIAMS for all parties, as skilled triage which will save money further down the line in contested proceedings.
- Provide Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) for all applicants in children’s matters including additional components about the range of help available before expensive court proceedings commence.
- A national information campaign regarding different pathways available following family breakdown – along the lines of the MOJ’s ‘Family Mediation First’ campaign.
Regarding the impact of LASPO, the submission says: “Amongst LASPO’s effects was an exponential rise in ‘litigants in person’, leading to severe delays and blockages in courts, combined with legally aided solicitor referrals to mediators drying up. Yet it was over a year before legislative efforts to increase family mediation take-up were implemented. This gap had a devastating impact upon voluntary sector mediation providers, resulting in the closure of a number of service providers due to declining numbers of referrals.
“Evidence shows that lawyers are treating the current situation as they did pre-LASPO: Families are spending their money on solicitors, then being sent by those solicitors to a MIAM simply in order to tick the box that ‘frees’ them of any obligation to make settlements through full family mediation – which would save the families money, time and stress, whilst delivering better outcomes for their family. They then head back to the solicitor to spend still more money. Pre-LASPO, solicitors had legal aid for representation, they referred people to mediation to box tick then back again to spend more money. In effect, nothing has changed.
“One of the objectives of LASPO was to cut the cost of legal services to the public purse. In private family law matters it is difficult to argue that the taxpayer should pay for someone else’s legal advice on divorce. Great strides were made to provide alternative services that would help families experiencing family breakdown keep control of their destiny after separation by using mediation. However the culture of divorce in England and Wales remains focused on legal solutions that are fundamentally adversarial and not conducive to encouraging personal problem solving behaviours. As long as this remains the case the taxpayer will forever foot the bill for relationship breakdown.
“NFM remains very concerned about future access of separating families to non-confrontational settlements as well as, of course, the future of our profession.”