Funding early legal advice in family courts should reduce the backlogs, says Bar Council
The Bar Council welcomes today’s announcement that the Government is moving away from the plan for compulsory mediation in family disputes and introducing a “legal advice pilot” scheme to provide early legal advice to families who are separating. The Bar Council is also pleased to note the further satellite proposals, especially for an expansion of the investigative courts’ pilot.
Commenting, Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“Mediation, by its very nature, should be voluntary and fair, so we support the Government’s decision to move away from the narrow approach of ‘compulsory mediation’ in the family courts and we welcome the pilot scheme to fund early legal advice.
“Mediation clearly has a positive role to play in keeping family disputes out of the courts to help resolve matters quickly, especially when children are involved. Private law cases, including child arrangements cases, currently take an average of 47 weeks to reach a final order – this is far too long in a child’s life.
“We hope the pilot scheme for early legal advice can be rolled out nationwide as soon as possible. It is vital that parties in family disputes fully understand the nature of the differences between them, the merits of their legal position, and the best forum for the resolution of their dispute. Funding for early legal advice ought to help to redress the balance of power where one party has significant advantage over the other.
“The drastic cuts to legal aid over a decade ago left many individuals without any legal representation in the family courts – a problem that has exacerbated backlogs and led to delays, conflict and heartache for many families who struggle to resolve matters, especially for their children. Funding early legal advice should ultimately reduce costs and delays further down the line.”
The Government announcement is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/childrens-wellbeing-at-the-heart-of-family-court-reforms
The Bar Council response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on private family law early resolution endorsed the response of the Family Law Bar Association. Read the response here: https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/static/018e66d1-5b81-4b6f-828ebdda4ecae60b/Bar-Council-FLBA-response-to-the-MoJ-Consultation-Supporting-earlier-resolution-of-private-family-law-arrangements.pdf