The thorny issue of mediation, and alternative forms of dispute resolution (ADR) was raised again this month by the Civil Justice Council, in their working group interim report. The CJC is an advisory body, established under the Civil Procedure Act 1997, with responsibility for overseeing and co-coordinating the modernisation of the civil justice system. The CJC meet at least three times a year to discuss and agree formal responses to consultation papers, providing advice to the Lord Chancellor, the Judiciary and Civil Procedure Rule Committee on the effectiveness of aspects of the civil justice system, including recommendations to test, review or conduct research into specific areas.
The working group published a comprehensive interim report on the existing role and potential future role of ADR in civil justice in England and Wales, including in family law.
Sir Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls and Chairman of the CJC, stated,”ADR is a very effective means of resolving civil disputes quickly and cheaply. This report explores the current use of ADR and the reasons why it is not used more frequently. As we prepare to enter a digital age of dispute resolution it is an ideal time to look in detail at how the potential for ADR can be maximised.“
In family law, those issuing proceedings for financial relief or child arrangements orders now required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), made a compulsory requirement of the court process since April 2014. However, after some initially positive results, MIAMs moving on to mediation has shown a slight decline.
However, the interim report indicates that a move to online dispute resolution in the future will make the ADR and mediation debate obsolete, should the online forum and ADR become interwoven in any future redesign of the court system. Until then a “carrot and stick” approach is suggested, using the threat of cost sanctions against those who don’t utilise ADR in earnest, together with encouragement to surpass an apparent mistrust in mediation and ADR.
If you would like to know more about the mediation and how alternative dispute resolution might help you resolve your family law matters, Hunter & Uro offer a free initial consultation. Our specialist family solicitors can help guide you through your options. Contact us on 0207 177 9777 or 01234 889777 for more information.