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"Conflicts clinics" to cut divorce costs

24 November 2009

Divorcing couples should be forced to resolve their differences through therapy before bringing their disputes before the court, especially where children are involved, a report published by Mishcon de Reya recommends.

The call for an alternative mechanism was made after a survey of 4,000 parents and children showed that children suffered deep emotional trauma as a result of acrimonious divorces.

The findings, discussed by a panel of family experts including Lord Justice Munby and Lord Justice Wall, revealed that 19 per cent of the children involved in court-based divorce proceedings felt “used”, 39 percent felt “isolated”, and 37 per cent “alone”.

In 38 per cent of cases, children never saw their father again.

Sandra Davis, head of family at Mishcon, said that despite the best intentions of the judiciary, CAFCASS, specialist family law practitioners and experts, the court process remained “fundamentally adversarial and blame -focused”.

Davis said that although the courts were able to impose solutions on parents, they couldn’t “resolve the root cause of disputes which is necessary before parents are able to co-parent effectively after they separate”.

The survey also found out that over £150m were spent every year on divorce proceedings, including £13m in legal aid fees.

In response, the report advocates the creation of a national network of “conflicts clinics” to provide therapeutic input to resolve disputes and enable successful co-parenting.

The clinics’ work would be funded from savings made as a result of the decline in court proceedings. Couples who do not qualify for public funding would be charged on a sliding scale up to £500 depending on means.

Mischon’s proposals also involve amendments to the Children Act 1989 to include compulsory attempts at family therapy before an application for a contact or residence order can be made, and the ability for judges to force parents to attend a family therapy course.

Mischon has briefed a national accountancy firm to cost the plans and likely savings.

Categorised in:

Discrimination Divorce Children Marriage & Civil partnership