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Family Law Reform Package Set to Help Boost Early Dispute Resolution

The UK government has set out an ‘ambitious package’ of reforms, in response to a Ministry of Justice consultation on the earlier resolution of private family law arrangements.

The consultation looked at ways in which the justice system can better support separating families to resolve their issues earlier and outside court, where it is appropriate and safe to do so.

As part of the reforms, a legal advice pilot will be launched to help families agree child arrangements quickly. This will aim to address barriers to early resolution, including a general lack of understanding of available options such as mediation.

Mediator checks will also be improved, to help ensure mediators have the right vetting and can support children earlier in the process. In addition, parents will be given access to a new online tool that pulls together information aimed at supporting them to move towards an amicable separation.

To help address instances where families need to resort to the courts, a conflict reduction pilot scheme, which has already had positive outcomes in North Wales and Dorset, will be subject to a national rollout. The model improves information sharing between agencies, including the police and local authorities, to help avoid victims having to retell traumatic experiences. The scheme also allows judges to review more documents before a case gets to court, to prevent further conflict in the courtroom, and ensures children are given additional opportunities to explain how they feel about decisions that affect their future.

Commenting on the reforms, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk KC said, “There is no one-size-fits-all approach for separating families, which is why we’re ensuring people have access to early legal advice and mediation to resolve disputes as early as possible.

“These reforms will help spare thousands of children the long-term harm of lengthy, combative courtroom conflict.”

More information regarding the reforms can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/childrens-wellbeing-at-the-heart-of-family-court-reforms

Published
6 March 2024
Last Updated
13 April 2024