Is 2021 the Year for Mediation? Separating Couples Seek Solutions Outside of Court
January traditionally sees a spike in enquiries for family lawyers. However, this year, the Family team at Hodge Jones & Allen have seen a jump in demand for its mediation offering.
The team believes that, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and the current national lockdown, couples are increasingly looking to avoid going through the UK court system, instead finding alternative ways to settle matters of separation in a process that allows them to stay in control of the timings and costs.
Vanessa Friend, a Partner in the Family Team at HJA, says that online mediation has been an important mechanism, allowing families to continue their dispute processes despite the pandemic, and in some cases, even made the process more comfortable.
“We have seen an increase in couples coming to us for our mediation service, rather than taking a legal route. I have been conducting sessions via Zoom, which has been beneficial for many couples as they feel less pressure than being face to face in a room.
“With mediation, you also tend to cover more ground than traditional solicitors’ correspondence, and conducting it online means couples living at a distance can attend at no additional cost or inconvenience. I have conducted mediations where the couple are living in different countries,” she said.
The benefits of agreeing matters directly through mediation also includes increased flexibility of the process, and the opportunity for urgent matters that cannot wait for court or correspondence to be agreed. Additionally, couples separating by going to court have to respond to the judge’s directions, which sometimes leads to unexpected increases in costs.
Vanessa added: “there are also important emotional benefits for children when their parents improve their communication during the mediation sessions. This can happen even when the relationship is initially very hostile. I have had individuals get up to leave mediation before returning to agree a solution, which is often a positive outcome for the whole family.
“I also think that more couples are becoming familiar with mediation as an option due to the pandemic. Now that we are having to work from home and stay inside more, a lot of our lives have moved online. Combining that with the flexible nature of mediation, I think we will definitely see an increase in those choosing this process even after the pandemic ends.”
For further information, please contact:
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Georgina Whittle, Associate Partner
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