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Family court chaos on the horizon

The use of family arbitration and mediation is set to become even more important following the Government’s announcement that it intends to close 86 courts across England and Wales.

The controversial court closures are part of the Ministry of Justice’s plans to make a more efficient and effective justice system. The consultation into the changes received over 2,100 separate responses along with 13 petitions containing over 10,000 signatures.

We believe that the long-term impact of the closures could prove to be a massive headache for thousands of separating families who will find it a real struggle to access the legal system. In short, it’s going to be harder to get to court, take longer and is likely to be more expensive.

Those considering divorce can simply no longer afford not to consider the alternatives, such as mediation and arbitration. The pressure the closures will exert on the country’s remaining courts will be immense, and it is likely to take its heaviest toll on the most vulnerable people in society.

The courts are supposed to be there for families to provide access to the justice system and this is bound to create a great deal of further heartache and pain to families already facing challenging times.

Choosing family arbitration over court proceedings does have its advantages, including the ability to choose a family arbitrator who has the right experience to deal with the issues that require settlement. Families also know who they are getting, which doesn’t apply in court where the judge cannot be chosen – not every judge hearing a case in court is a family law specialist whereas family arbitrators have to be.

Working with a chosen family arbitrator will usually be a lot quicker than going to court. Even before the closures were announced, in some parts of the country families waited months or even years from the start to the finish of a case and delays are only going to increase as a result of the court closures.

It is vital that all those families thinking about or embarking on family court proceedings are fully aware of the alternatives of actually going to court. In the majority of cases, resolution can be reached without the need for court proceedings at all.

Mediation often saves the cost, time, and emotional distress associated with a traditional, adversarial divorce. It also fosters open communication, encourages respect, and helps to protect future working relationships between future former spouses.

Our Managing Partner, Lyn Ayrton, is a qualified collaborative lawyer and a qualified Family Law Arbitrator, one of only a handful in Yorkshire. She is a member of The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

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