In the wake of Sir James Munby’s calls for a re-evaluation of the government’s family mediation drive, the government would do well to consider introducing some form of mandatory counselling for couples considering divorce litigation.
Sir James highlighted the fact that the general public has not embraced mediation to the extent that the government hoped. As a result, we are seeing pressures on family courts continuing to mount up.
Unfortunately, mediation cannot be viewed as the panacea of all ills. Any review of mediation’s success will have to take into account the broader circumstances. In my experience, mediations often break down in the face of one or both parties’ refusal to compromise.
Couples need to be in the right frame of mind before they go into mediation for it to work. For many couples, that will mean counselling. The trauma of separation and the circumstances surrounding it can be huge.
More needs to be done to recognise and deal with this factor, which can result in many couples spending money that the family cannot afford on litigation.
Compulsory counselling in some shape or form would encourage couples to acknowledge the anger they feel, and help them to avoid making matters worse.
The government could considerably reduce pressure on the family courts by looking into an appropriately accredited counselling scheme for families going through separation and divorce.
Richard Phillips, partner and head of the family department, IBB Solicitors, Uxbridge