Can better communication help you avoid court proceedings about your children?

At a recent conference attended by family law professionals, Sir Andrew McFarlane (President of the Family Division) said that “around 38% of couples need to go to court to resolve disagreements over how they should care for their child post separation” and that this was a “far cry from the previous comfortable urban myth based on a figure of 10%”. He said this “indicates a major societal problem, with nearly 40% of parents unable to sort out the arrangements for their own child without the need to apply for a court order”. There is no doubt that part of the reason for this is because parents do not have the same access to legal advice as they did previously given the cuts in legal aid. However, in my experience, one of the key reasons that separated parents end up in court is because they cannot communicate. Some parents can’t communicate effectively, and some parents simply can’t or don’t communicate at all.

Obviously there are reasons why some parents don’t communicate, and direct communication may not be appropriate in all cases. However, on my days as the mediator at our local court (a group of mediators volunteer at our local court to offer mediation in suitable children cases), I have been struck by the fact that many of the cases I have dealt with are in court because either the parents couldn’t (or didn’t) discuss matters with each other before issuing court proceedings, or because they didn’t realise there was an effective alternative to court proceedings such as mediation. These parents often reach an agreement about the arrangements for their children when they have the opportunity of discussing matters with each other with the assistance of a mediator.

There are lots of experienced family law mediators who can help you communicate effectively and work towards discussing and agreeing the arrangements for your children. So my advice to parents that are struggling to agree arrangements for their children is to speak to a family law professional to see if mediation (or collaborative law or arbitration) can help you resolve matters without the need to go to court.

Interested in finding out more about how mediation could help you and your family? Get in touch with the family mediators here at Mills & Reeve for practical guidance and advice.

Hannah Wilson