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Remove Opt-Out From Family Law Mediation

Comment 2nd July 2010

Family law, as it currently stands, encourages both sides in a marital/relationship breakdown to engage in a process of mediation and/or collaborative law prior to seeking redress through the courts. There is currently an 'opt-out' in place for spouses who have suffered Domestic Violence/Abuse. Whereas this is understandable in such genuinely unpleasant and extreme cases, there is a suggestion that many spouses are making spurious allegations of Domestic Abuse, which are subsequently withdrawn, in order to circumvent the necessity for mediation. This is predominantly being done by the Interim Resident Parent prior to any eventual residency hearing, hoping to stretch out the timeframe before the eventual hearing takes place, in order to establish a new 'status quo' which often then persuades the Court that the best interests of the child are served by leaving things as they are.

Why does this matter?

Mediation is a particularly positive route when there are children involved, as it both speeds up the entire process, and also avoids much of the antipathy engendered by an adversarial courtroom situation. By enforcing mediation more rigorously, huge amounts of Family Law Courts time could be freed up, speeding up the process for the remainder of cases unsuitable for mediation, and saving the State potentially large amounts of money. The 'opt-out' should be reserved for those situations where Domestic Abuse has been actually proven, or, at the very least, where a full investigation by the Police has taken place, and the Police force involved believes that there has indeed been an offence, and that charges will ensue. As mediation is a faster process than going through the Courts, this would also assist in close relationships continuing between children and BOTH parents without, as so often happens, a long period elapsing with little or no contact between any children involved and whichever parent is non-resident. This idea would therefore also carry obvious societal advantages.

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