CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) are running a pilot scheme in Kent from November 2014 for 6 months to support separating parents. This is by offering a service to parents going through mediation. Cafcass is a government agency.
The pilot will help separating parents in dispute access information, guidance and support about the most appropriate dispute resolution pathways available to them. It also helps mediators who are working with families in dispute through a dedicated freephone telephone helpline. The reason for the pilot is because CAFCASS take the view that too many people end up fighting expensive, confrontational and unnecessary court battles. The Government wants to make sure that separating parents are able to access the right advice, information and support at the right time.
The pilots will run from November 2014 for six months, and will be evaluated in Spring 2015 to help determine the best range services for out of court resolution As a parent if you live in a pilot area, you can access the ‘Supporting separating parents in dispute’ freephone telephone based service which will discuss your situation, identify your needs and then match these to the local services which can provide advice and support. The number is 0800 380 0040 and the helpline hours are 9am -5pm. Each parent who calls the helpline will be allocated a case worker, who will help with access to the most appropriate services and where possible, arrange appointments for parents. Wherever it is appropriate the service will encourage you to access a suitable form of dispute resolution service – referred to, under the pilots, as a local out of court pathway.
The initial telephone support will be followed-up by a further phone call, around three weeks later, to assess progress on the efforts to resolve the dispute and provide further assistance where necessary. As this is a pilot, callers may also be contacted at later points for evaluation purposes.
To find out more about the pilot and CAFCASSS you can go onto the website at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/supporting-separating-parents-in-dispute-pilot.aspx
The family mediators at CMDS attended the Kent and Sussex ADR (Alternative Resolution Dispute) Day on 13 June 2014. The day was packed with speakers and useful information regarding all the alternative forms of Dispute Resolution. That means avoiding the court process either entirely or for parts of the dispute. The information provided included the following:
Arbitration is a bit like paying for your own judge. Arbitrators tend to be experienced family law practitioners who have been trained to act like a judge and make a decision about a matter in dispute. Their decision is binding and everyone has to sign up to using the arbitrator. This is used quite a lot in many types of disputes including commercial and civil disputes. It hasn't been so popular in family cases but as people find that the family courts are incredibly slow and expensive arbitration is finding favour with those going through family disputes. For more information, please visit www.ifla.org.uk
Transactional Analysis and Mediation
We were given a fascinating talk about how transactional analysis can help when thinking about the games we all play in our relationships and how this can be managed within mediation. We looked at using boundaries to assist the mediation process. Boundaries can include matters such as no name calling and no walking out. We talked about how important it is for the mediator to keep a safe secure environment. For more information, please visit www.relationshipservices.co.uk
There was also a talk about the use of collaborative law. This is where the people involved and their lawyers all sign up to an agreement to work together. The aim is to resolve the dispute together in a fair way. All meetings are with both lawyers and clients altogether. The couple cannot go to court with those lawyers if they can't resolve their dispute through the collaborative process and must use other lawyers. For more information, visit www.resolution.org.uk
On April 22nd 2014 the Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes introduced a new way of providing family court services to England and Wales.
Sir James Mumby has said the reforms amount to a revolution.
The main aim is to create a single family court. This replaces the current system three separate courts which the public have to struggle to negotiate especially if their case is deemed unsuitable for the particular court they find themselves in resulting in court transfers and often a lot of confusion.
The changes will also bring in compulsory attendance at a Mediation information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before proceedings are issued (save in certain circumstances eg domestic violence)
In addition there will be a 26 week time limit to care proceedings.
The hope is that these changes will limit the delays within the court system for families and especially children.
Ministry of Justice press release on the family justice reforms can be found here
FAQs on the Single Family Court can be found here