By Claire Filer, Partner and Mediator, Family Law.

On 6 April 2022, family law in England and Wales significantly changed when no-fault divorce was introduced. These changes mean that a person (or a couple acting jointly) can now choose to end their marriage or civil partnership by stating it has irretrievably broken down. They no longer have to rely on a period of separation, desertion, adultery or behaviour of one of the parties (as was the case previously). This has removed a part of the process that often resulted in disagreement and unnecessary acrimony. It’s a long-awaited change which is hugely positive, and will hopefully mean that proceedings can start off in a more constructive way. 

Alongside the divorce proceedings, there are still lots of things to sort out and decisions to be made when a marriage comes to an end. As well as many short-term and long-term practical steps, deciding financial matters and arrangements for children can seem overwhelming.  A family mediator works with both parties and provides legal information to help make those decisions in an amicable way, without the need for court proceedings. Despite this, it’s always sensible to speak to an expert family lawyer from an early stage for tailored legal advice. Your solicitor can then draw up an agreement which is reached, which can be formalised into a court order.     

Family mediation is a process in which a mediator (a professionally trained and independent third party) helps people to resolve arrangements for children and finances following separation. The process is usually a series of three to five meetings. The mediator is trained to listen to each person and facilitate the discussion, and ensure decisions are fair, and made jointly.  It’s a voluntary process which can be less stressful, quicker, and less expensive than court proceedings. Those participating are there because they have chosen to be - the solutions reached are therefore more likely to succeed in the long run.  

The mediator will guide the parties through the mediation process from start to finish. This starts – with a first meeting to signpost them along the way to other information or support they might need. This includes financial advisors, counsellors, pension experts and expert family lawyers. They can manage the financial disclosure process so that both parties are fully informed before making decisions. We’re hopeful that no-fault divorce and the increasing popularity of mediation will help families who are going through divorce, reducing acrimony and providing a positive way forward.

You can find out more about mediation and our mediation support service here.