Divorcing couples face compulsory mediation

It has become the norm in recent times for warring couples looking to divorce to 'lawyer-up' for a court showdown. But feuding husbands and wives could soon be forced to try mediation before dashing to the divorce courts.

Couple arguing with child between them
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A Whitehall review of the system hopes that compulsory mediation may help to sort out disputes over money and child custody, thereby reducing the number of long drawn-out court cases.

David Norgrove, who is chairing the review, claims the family court system is under "tremendous strain" with the number of divorce cases rising 16 per cent last year to 137,000.

Those that involve children last an average of 56 weeks.

The proposals are due to be published in full early next year and will recommend that as many cases as possible be resolved with mediation.

More complicated battles would be dealt with via a simpler, quicker system with shorter hearings. If nothing else, the system review could save up to £100 million in legal aid.

Mr Norgrove told the Daily Mail: "The family justice system as a whole we estimate to cost just over £1.6 billion - much higher than anyone else has previously estimated.

"There is a general sense that more cases can and should be devolved from the court-based process."

He added: "At present, if you want to get divorced, you need a form and for that you need to know the number of the legislation involved.

"Most people don't know that so they are pushed down the route towards lawyers."

Let us know what you think? Will compulsory mediation encourage couples to resolve their disputes and make divorce easier on the children or will it only serve to draw out an already lengthy process? Leave your comments below...