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A Resolution survey of more than 6,500 divorce lawyers has found that the new divorce procedure guidelines, requiring couples to look at mediation as an alternative to using courts, are largely being ignored. From last April, all divorcing couples were required to attend a "mediation information and assessment meeting" before they could issue an application to the family courts.
Resolution, however, discovered that only one-third of their members were referring most of their clients to such a meeting, while 78% reported that the courts were not checking whether couples had looked at mediation before hearing their application for divorce. Critics have warned that the new rules may create a two-tier divorce system, with wealthier couples benefitting far more than less well-off couples.
They claim that better-off couples can afford to participate in the arbitration scheme yet more hard up couples are being forced to represent themselves in family courts due to legal aid cuts. Resolution’s Joanne Edwards comments: "The potential for a two-tier justice system with arbitration for the wealthiest and an over-jammed court system for everyone else is a concern. It's an unprecedented period of change and uncertainty for clients and professionals alike. We have seen a greater awareness of mediation among the public and a huge surge in numbers of lawyers wishing to do mediation training."
Sunday 22nd April 2012 The Observer (page 10)