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Changes to Family Procedure Rules usher in new era for Family law and mediation

This week, new rules have been put in place with the aim of encouraging families to resolve their disputes away from the Family courts. The Family Procedure Rules (a set of guidelines which provide a framework for how the court deals with Family law cases), have been amended, bringing a new emphasis on alternative methods for resolving conflict. 

The Family courts continue to be under a great deal of pressure, and the system is overwhelmed with cases. This inevitably results in delays, leading to frustration, additional cost and hardship for families. 

Since the rules changed on Monday 29th April, people who are applying to the Family court are now expected, where possible, to use alternative forms of dispute resolution (known as ‘Non-Court Dispute Resolution’ or ‘NCDR’). Such methods include mediation, arbitration, ‘Collaborative Law’ and evaluation by a neutral third party (including the Private Financial Dispute Resolution process). The new rules also make it more difficult for parties to avoid engaging in NCDR.  

The new rules fall short of making NCDR mandatory, but they strongly encourage parties to engage, with fewer ‘exemptions’. It’s worth noting that there is still a recognition that NCDR will not be appropriate in all cases, such as where there has been domestic abuse. 

There is a new court form which parties must complete to tell the court about what NCDR has taken place, and why they still need the court’s assistance to resolve their dispute. The court will look very carefully at the reasons which have been provided, and it may delay proceedings to give them further opportunities to attend and engage in NCDR. The court will continue to consider whether NCDR should be engaged with throughout every stage of the case, and not just at the outset. 

On top of the usual costs associated with court proceedings, the court now has the power to penalise parties in financial remedy cases, by making a costs order against a party who has failed to engage in NCDR without a ‘good reason’.

It’s hoped that these changes will make a real difference to separating families, steering them away from the stretched court system, and towards constructive, less costly alternatives, where they have more control over the process. 

Our family mediators can help offering a range of services depending on the level of support you need.

Call our team on 0808 303 8205 or contact us online for a 30-minute consultation about your mediation options.