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'Worrying flaws' in mediation push, Resolution warns

6 April 2011

There are “worrying flaws” in the government’s compulsory mediation awareness sessions for divorcing couples, Resolution has warned.

The sessions, which start today, are for all cases not involving domestic violence or child protection.

David Allison, chairman of Resolution, said the government had “rushed headlong into these changes in an unplanned way”.

He went on: “Anyone can set themselves up as a mediator and the lack of a guarantee of the quality of mediators could leave some couples who lack a solicitor’s advice ending up in the hands of unregulated or untrained, rogue mediators.

“There may also be a shortage of properly trained mediators given the new demand.”

Allison added: “We should also remember that for some couples court is the right option, including when there is domestic abuse, intimidation or an imbalance of financial power.

“Mediation is a voluntary process and separating couples must both be willing to try it for it to have a chance of being successful.”

A spokeswoman for Resolution said the organisation had already trained 300 mediators and 180 more members would be trained by the end of this year.

She said the mediation awareness session should include other forms of dispute resolution, such as collaborative law and solicitor negotiation.

Initial mediation awareness sessions are one of the recommendations of the Norgrove interim report, launched last week (see Solicitors Journal 155/13, 5 April 2011).

However, the report goes further in introducing what Norgrove has called ‘positive steps’ before private law cases reach court.

Following the mediation awareness session, if children are involved, parents would go through a ‘separated parent information programme’ or PIP, consisting of a series of sessions.

After the PIP, or immediately if the couple have no children, they will be encouraged to resolve their differences through mediation or another form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative law.

They will only be allowed access to the courts if the mediator gives them a certificate.

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