Warning to separating parents: family court waiting game will last months

Demand surge for alternative dispute remedies

Separating couples who are hoping for a family court to resolve their parenting and money disagreements will be waiting in a very long queue stretching into late 2021, according to a new document from England and Wales’ Head of Family Justice, Sir Andrew McFarlane.

Now family dispute resolution experts are predicting soaring demand for video-conference alternatives to court resolution, including family mediation.

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, says:

“In his January 2021 publication, Sir Andrew McFarlane seeks to manage expectations of families wishing to use the courts to resolve their issues. He makes it clear the family court logjam will not begin to ease until summer 2021 at the earliest.

“Family Courts were not coping with their high workload even before the pandemic hit. It’s clear any form of ‘normal service’ will not resume until long after the vaccinations have taken effect.

“The issues that come with relationship breakdown won’t wait for six months or more until the vaccination programme has taken full effect. Separating couples need to get help quickly so they can sort parenting and money issues.

“Awareness is increasing of alternative ways to settle the vital issues that arise during a divorce and separation.

“Those alternatives are not only going to help couples settle differences more quickly, but also with less expense and considerably less stress.

“Video conference mediation means separating couples can look to make arrangements without having to sit in a room with their ex.

“And it means couples don’t need to leave it to a judge to decide, months down the line, who will live where, and what happens to the money, debts and pensions. Mediation empowers families themselves to decide these things for themselves.

“So far in 2021 we are already seeing a 60 per cent rise in demand for our professional services, and we expect this to continue into the spring and summer.”

Legal Aid remains available for family mediation. Book an appointment here.