While January is often seen as a peak time for divorces and separations, this year the government is reminding couples of the option of mediation as an alternative to heading straight for court.
The website directgov sees record numbers of people logging on to search for the word “divorce” or other related terms in the first few weeks of a New Year and it is widely recognised to be a time, soon after Christmas, when people re-evaluate their lives with some deciding on a different path.
However, in cases where couples are committed to a life apart, the government is stressing that the whole procedure could be made less painful and potentially less expensive if they choose mediation rather than court.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said that by taking this route rather than going through the courts, the couple can keep control of their own situation and can work constructively towards an outcome that satisfies both parties. He said that potentially mediation is quicker, cheaper and more amicable and is particularly suited to those marriages where children are involved as it can allow the parents to think constructively about the long term future of the children.
The mediation process requires both people sitting down together with a qualified mediator and discussing their issues in an effort to find solutions, rather than putting their future in the hands of solicitors and ultimately a judge. New rules mean that those who contest the terms of separation now have to consider mediation before deciding to go to court and the government has shown its intention by increasing spending on mediation for family disputes by two thirds to £25m annually.
Jane Robey, the CEO of National Family Mediation, said that January was statistically a time when many couples choose to end their relationship due to factors such as having to be together for an extended time at Christmas and dreading the New Year. She said it was positive news that from now on, more couples than ever will have the chance to seriously consider mediation and how it can work for them.