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Family legal aid data prompts fresh mediation warning

Family legal aid data prompts fresh mediation warning

Newly released family legal aid data has prompted a fresh reminder of new rules that could see judges impose costs orders on parties unwilling to resolve their disputes away from court.

Last week the Ministry of Justice published legal aid statistics covering January to March – the last full set of quarterly data before changes to the family procedure rules to steer families towards non-court dispute resolution came into force.

Parties at a mediation information and assessment meeting must be provided with information about the principles, process and different models of mediation, and other methods of non-court dispute resolution. They have to fill a FM5 ‘statement of position on non-court dispute resolution’ form at least a week before the first court hearing, explaining why non-court dispute resolution was unsuccessful or why they are seeking a court order if they did not attempt it. Judges could take parties’ conduct in relation to attending non-court dispute resolution into account when considering whether to make a costs order.

Sarah Manning, a partner and head of mediation at Hall Brown Family Law, expects the prospect of a costs order will make those most reluctant to participate in mediation rethink their position and more couples will be keen to show they are not simply paying lip service to the process.

Manning has already seen an increase in mediation work prior to the new rules coming into force – but said some clients and lawyers are still unaware of the changes.

‘I have given presentations about the new requirements to law firms who admitted their surprise on hearing about the details. Given how much judicial effort has been invested in driving non-court resolution methods, I would not be surprised to see costs orders handed down,’ Manning said.

Read the complete article here.

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