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Family mediators call on lawyers and judges to be more supportive

Initiative is reminder to family lawyers of their duty to consider all dispute resolution options

23 January 2017

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Promoting accredited mediators, advertising on prime-time television, and greater endorsement by solicitors and judges are some of the initiatives being discussed as part of this year’s Family Mediation Week to encourage greater take-up of this alternative dispute resolution process.

Starting today, the annual fixture gives law firms, mediators, and other organisations the opportunity to raise awareness of mediation with events taking place throughout the UK.

Mediation is known to be a quicker, cheaper, and less stressful means of resolving disputes with parties given more control over the process. But despite changes in the law, including compulsory mediation information assessment meetings, it is still not getting as much traction as supporters believe it deserves.

‘The success rate where both people attend mediation is very high at around 78 per cent,’ said Denise Ingamells, head of mediation at TV Edwards. ‘Mediation can work at any time; things change, mediation might not have worked yesterday but it might work today or tomorrow, and it can also work alongside court proceedings.’

Ingamells said Family Mediation Week was a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to promote the benefits of mediation and hoped it would give more people the confidence to try it. She went further: ‘These initiatives are also a way of reminding our solicitor colleagues in the family team to make sure they are abiding by their Resolution credentials in discussing all ADR options in every case at the outset, but also going back to review with their clients throughout the process precisely because a case, or the individuals involved, can evolve over time.’

Her firm specially re-launched its website today to raise awareness of family mediation and is using social media to stress the importance of choosing an accredited mediator to reach beyond its traditional networks.

Over in Covent Garden, Family Law in Partnership’s team of fourteen mediators is offering free half-hour mediation sessions for new mediation clients. The firm said it is also happy to speak to family lawyers about the benefits of family mediation and how it could be used to resolve the many and various family issues that their clients face.

Ruth Smallacombe, a mediator and family consultant at FLiP, said the firm fully supported Family Mediation Week but called on family lawyers and the courts to be ‘more rigorous in considering family mediation to resolve disputes’.

‘They should be encouraging family mediation at an earlier stage to ensure that the parties don’t get fixed into negotiating stances which make finding a solution more and more difficult. All family mediators and organisations should do more to promote the benefits of mediation, even advertising its benefits on prime-time TV, as a cost-effective and extremely flexible process.’

Austin Chessell, an accredited child and family mediator at Feltons, agreed with Smallacombe. He said events like Family Mediation Week will help to increase awareness of the benefits of mediation while other family professionals and judges can also help by signposting or directing clients to the practice.

Chessel, who has previously spoken of the challenges of becoming a family mediator, is planning two mediation events for January and February with the Family Mediation Centre to help lawyers understand some of the processes involved.

Matthew Rogers is a reporter at Solicitors Journal

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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