The Family Justice System is currently undergoing significant changes to try and reduce the strain and backlog faced by the family courts.
The introduction of no-fault divorce and extended funding for mediation for disputes concerning children (£5.38million this financial year, raising the total invested in the scheme to £8.68million since March 2021) demonstrates a continued commitment to resolving matters away from the court arena.
The Family Mediation Council (FMC) voucher scheme introduced in March 2021 provides families in England and Wales with a £500 voucher to put towards the cost of mediation. The vouchers can be used by parents attending meditation to discuss the care of their child or children. By enabling divorcing couples and parents to resolve their disputes without litigation, it will enable the court to utilise its limited time on cases that require the adjudication of the court.
The emphasis on mediation and no-fault divorce is reflective of the desire for most separating couples to deal with the practical consequences of their separation in a private and constructive way.
Since the introduction of no fault divorce, the number of divorce applications have increased; HMCTS received 3,000 divorce applications in the week following the introduction of reforms in April, which is a 50% rise on the weekly average.
This demonstrates people’s desire to wait for the law to change, so that they can proceed in this new neutral non-adversarial way. There is no longer a requirement to provide a reason for the marriage coming to an end, giving people greater respect for their private life, as well as removing the blame element of divorce previously seen.
This change in law sets a more amicable tone from the start, and therefore places people in a better position to make decisions about the children and their finances.
Cafcass statistics show that in 2020/21, there were 97,496 children involved in private children proceedings, an increase of 23.1% since 2016/17. In public law, there were 143,129 children, an increase of 16.4% since 2016/17, with cases taking an average of 45 weeks to conclude.
These increases are not sustainable, for the courts or for the families facing long delays. The need to reduce the number of families in the Family Justice system is vital. The focus on solutions achieved through agreement benefits both families, and the Family Justice System, and the court are increasingly robust at encouraging parents to consider alternatives to litigation.
Recently in the case of Re B (a child) (Unnecessary Private Law Applications), his Honour Judge Wildblood QC said:
‘Do not bring your private law litigation to the family court here unless it is definitely necessary for you to do so,’ he said. ‘You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you.’
The commitment to further funding for mediation follows research that mediation helps families reach solutions and outcomes that are best for their children.
The FMC conducted a survey which showed that mediation is successful in over 70% of cases. The funding enables parents to access mediation in circumstances where it would otherwise be unaffordable, and encourages people to proceed with this option.
It has raised the profile of mediation, as FMC research further showed that after an initial meeting, three quarters chose to mediate, and that
“This is despite the fact that many don’t know anything about mediation, or think their partner is so unreasonable that mediation will never work”.
It should not be surprising to hear that parental preference is to reach an agreement, rather than battle it out in court, and ultimately receive an order imposed upon them by a Judge who doesn’t know them or more importantly their child.
Most parents are acutely aware that while their marriage or relationship has come to an end, their relationship as parents has not. And however, hard it may be for them as an individual, as a parent they want to do the best for their child.
The option to attend mediation provides parents with the opportunity to communicate, explore the issues, discuss the options and resolve the matters that are important to them.
A Judge is unlikely to hear arguments on the appropriate amount of screen time for a child, the choice of gifts each parent buys for their birthday, or how the parents will explain to their child about their new routine now that their parents live apart.
All these things can be discussed and agreed upon in mediation. As one Judge said recently:
“I cannot order people to be nice. However, in mediation, parents can discuss matters and hopefully improve their communication so that they have the tools to resolve disputes, thus avoiding court now and in the future. The court must make decisions in the best interests of the child. However, court proceedings are often protracted, emotionally and financially expensive, and consequently damaging to the child and their parents.
Mediation is not appropriate in every case, nor is it always possible for parents to reach agreements. We need our Family Justice system to work effectively and efficiently for those families.
For example, in cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse, safeguarding concerns such as drug or alcohol abuse, parental alienation or protracted disputes. The court is a finite resource, but there must be access to our Family Justice System.
Lord Neuberger said access to justice “has a number of components. First, a competent and impartial judiciary; secondly, accessible courts; thirdly, properly administered courts; fourthly, a competent and honest legal profession; fifthly, an effective procedure for getting a case before the court; sixthly, an effective legal process; seventhly effective execution; eighthly, affordable justice.”
The focus on dispute resolution options, such as mediation, is not designed to take away access to justice, but to create a Family Justice System that provides families with options to resolve their disputes in a way that is most appropriate for their circumstances.
The introduction of no-fault divorce and continued funding for mediation enables the focus to move from conflict and confrontation to communication and solutions, and enables our Courts to work more effectively for those who need to litigate.
Previously published on LawNews More
The Family Justice System is currently undergoing significant changes to try and reduce the strain and backlog faced by the family courts.
- in Children
Parallel parenting is a method used by divorced or separated parents who wish to continue to parent their children in parallel, whilst agreeing to limit contact and interaction with each other. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, or where communication is extremely difficult.
Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
5 Tips for Parallel Parenting
Rebuilding your life when a relationship ends and healing from any emotional trauma you’ve experienced is difficult enough. Even when you’re ex was abusive, sometimes it’s impossible to cut ties for the sake of your child.
What is parallel parenting?
Whilst co-parenting works by cooperation and continued communication, for some it gives your ex-partner the opportunity to continue to mistreat you. Instead, parallel parenting increases safety in challenging relationships by deliberately keeping communication to a bare minimum.
While major decisions can be agreed upon together, each parent adapts their parenting method when the child is in their care. It allows you to distance yourself from your ex without depriving your child of a parent and sets clear boundaries that prevent further abuse or conflict.
The aim is to facilitate emotional healing from the relationship while prioritising your child’s needs and protecting them from conflict.
To give you the best start after divorce, here’s 5 tips for parallel parenting.
1. Create a parenting plan
It’s best to plan ahead to avoid disagreements. The more prepared you are and the more detailed the plan is, the less you’re likely to argue with your ex and the more minimal the contact is. Minimise stress for your child and ensure your safety by agreeing as much as you can in advance, including:
Agreeing timing of visits, including dates and start and end times, in writing.
Establish how to handle cancellations, and when and how they should be communicated.
Consider how often the child will see each parent?
Who will attend your child’s functions or doctor visits?
Agree who will drop them off and pick them up?
Plan ahead to decide where your child will spend their holidays and birthdays?
Choose a neutral location or even ask a family member or a trusted friend to pick your child for you.
Set out financial responsibilities, and dos and don’ts.
You can figure out logistics using email or another form of communication that doesn’t involve meeting face to face.
2. Let yourself heal
Ideally, after separating from an abusive ex-partner, you’d cut contact and never see them again. But when there are children involved, this is not always possible to eliminate them from your life completely. When some form of contact must remain, prioritise fulfilling your needs as well as supporting your child. Incorporate self-care into your routine to reduce stress and reconnect with your self. The best way to deal with the situation is by moving forward, so when you’re ready to, concentrate on your long-term goals. Focus on building resilience and reintroducing happiness to your life.
3. Accept the current situation
Parallel parenting, and maintaining some contact with an abusive or difficult ex-partner after you’ve chosen to divorce, can be very challenging. It’s natural to struggle with negative emotions such as guilt, regret, shame and anger, and feeling as though things aren’t fair. You may find it hard to accept that your ex is still a parent to your child. Try to practice acceptance. Things are the way they are and all you can do is make the best out of the situation. Focus your energy on parenting your child and providing them with all the love and support they need.
4. Keep communication to the minimum
Only communicate with your ex when it’s necessary. Agree to contact them via email or use a parenting app, and document every interaction. Keep your communication impersonal and matter of fact, discussing only topics that relate to your child and sharing no personal information or detail. Try not to let your ex provoke you or use your child as a messenger. It can be difficult not to ruminate on the relationship whenever an email pops up or whenever your child is spending time with them. Try to distance yourself and treat interaction with your ex as a business that’s necessary to keep your child happy.
5. Appoint a mediator
If there’s a lot of resentment between you and your ex, or your safety might be compromised, it’s a good idea to appoint a professional mediator. Mediation helps divorced parents to align their intentions and focus on their shared priority, the child. With the help of mediation, divorced parents can make well-informed decisions, reduce conflict, and set out an effective and mutually beneficial plan for all members of the family.
Parallel parenting can be challenging and confusing, and the details of an arrangement will depend on the individual situation. Consider getting advice from a professional.
If you need help and support with parallel parenting you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
Family Law Advice
If you are in an abusive or high-conflict relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers. More
- in Family Law
Firm ranked for 12th consecutive year in Family Law, Mediation, Appellate practice areas
We are pleased to announce the publishers of U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America have recognized Orsinger Nelson Downing & Anderson (ONDA) in the annual Best Law Firms listing.
The firm’s Appellate practice received national recognition five years in a row, along with metropolitan honors in Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. The firm also earned top honors for its Family Law expertise in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio metro areas, with additional recognition in the Family Law Mediation category.
Best Law Firms rankings are based on thorough client and attorney evaluations, including peer and editorial staff review. A firm must have at least one attorney recognized in the current Best Lawyers in America guide to earn Best Law Firms eligibility. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson has 14 lawyers in the 2021 Best Lawyers listing.
Name partners Richard Orsinger, Keith Nelson, Scott Downing and Jeff Anderson earned Best Lawyers recognition for Family Law. In addition, Mr. Orsinger was honored for his Appellate work, and Mr. Anderson was recognized for his Family Law Arbitration practice.
Firm partners William M. Reppeto III, Brad M. LaMorgese, Amber Liddell Alwais, Paula A. Bennett, Lon M. Loveless, Paul Hewett, Holly Rampy Baird, and R. Porter Corrigan, as well as associate Ryan Kirkham and Of Counsel James M. Loveless, have each been recognized by Best Lawyers for representing individuals in Family Law. Mr. LaMorgese received additional honors for his Appellate practice, and Ms. Bennett was also recognized for Family Law Mediation.
The firm’s recognition in the Best Law Firms 2021 listing is the latest in a multitude of awards the firm has earned in recent years. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, solidified its national reputation in October with more Top 100 Texas Super Lawyers honorees than any other law firm. It was the third consecutive year the firm was recognized as having the most Top 100 lawyers in a state with more than 100,000 practicing attorneys.
ONDA attorneys have been repeatedly recognized in D Magazine’s Best Lawyers in Dallas honors along with D CEO’s Dallas 500, a list of the top business leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
With offices in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth and San Antonio, Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, is one of Texas’ largest Family Law firms. Each partner is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, as well as a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists. More