Divorcing couples embracing mediation

In an article in the Law Society Gazette it was highlighted that divorcing couples are apparently seeking mediation services themselves rather than being encouraged to do so through their lawyers. The National Family Mediation (NFM) service claims that the number of couples self referring has more than doubled in 12 months. One could assume this was entirely predictable given the very heavy legislative nudge towards mediation but it seems lawyers are not necessarily encouraging this trend. The article went on to say: The number of non-solicitor referred cases rose to 51% in the first half of this year. This was a significant increase on the same period in 2013, when 19% of referrals to mediators came from non-solicitor sources. In the first half of 2012 the figure was 9.6%. The 2014 figures are the first that take into account the full effects of legal aid cuts introduced in April 2013 with the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. They also include the period after April 2014 when legislation made it compulsory for couples to attend a mediation assessment before applying for a court order. Jane Robey, chief executive of NFM, said the service’s website has seen a ‘huge rise’ in visits as people increasingly seek help themselves rather than visit a solicitor. ‘The legal aid changes have caused referrals from solicitors to family mediators to collapse,’ she said. ‘The referral process has been flipped on its head with more and more people self-researching their options before making any commitments.’