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More talk time is priority for splitting couples
Hard on the heels of Britain’s longest-running and most bitter divorce, the Government has said it will be pushing more couples towards mediation, whilst the price of applying for a divorce is likely to treble, to more accurately reflect the court cost.
The multi-million pound divorce case of Young v Young was, according to the judge, “extraordinary even by the standards of the most bitter of matrimonial breakdowns”. The seven-year court battle between the couple has cost millions and notched up 65 hearings in court before the wife finally secured a £20m financial award last month. And the case may yet return to court to deal with costs and enforcing the award.
The millions spent in the financial battle fought by the Youngs may come from another world, but the cost of divorce is set to rise for everyone under plans being considered by the Ministry of Justice, the consultation for which ended this week. As part of a move to make people pay the true cost of the court’s time, from Spring this year couples may be are likely to be asked to pay £750 in court fees for an uncontested divorce, almost treble the cost to the court of processing administratively the divorce at current fee of £270. The court fee for the divorce petition is currently £410 having only recently increased in July last year from £340. n would remain unchanged at £410 and Exemptions and part exemptions discounts would continue to be available for those for those who qualify, on limited income. for example being on maximum benefits.
Its estimated that if the new court fee is brought in it will generate a £30 million per annum in profit for the government.
Contrasted against the proposed fee rise for divorce, the fees for victims of domestic violence seeking protection are set to be abolished under the proposals; currently £75, this would see the end of victims being further penalised financially.
But alongside these financial proposals, the Government is also pushing ahead with plans intended to reduce the emotional and financial burden of the whole process, with the announcement of more mediation for couples who are splitting up.
Under proposed measures in the Children and Families Bill, which is in its final stages of going through Parliament, couples who are separating and want to apply for a court order about children or financial matters must first attend a meeting with an approved mediator what is being called a “mediation information and assessment meeting”. This measure gives teeth to the existing Family Proceedings Rules 2010. Some exemptions will still apply, such as; evidence of domestic violence, distance from mediator is in excess of 15 miles, whereabouts of other party is unknown or it is an emergency. .
Although some 120,000 couples in England and Wales separate every year, previous efforts by the Government to encourage couples into mediation have not seen good take-up, even though the results of mediation show that it is faster and cheaper than going to court – the average time for a mediated case is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases.
Family law expert Olive McCarthy MCIArb of Hertfordshire /North London based Breze & Wyles Solicitors LLP Name of Town-based solicitors Name of Firm explained: “In a court case, the judge will have much wider discretion, but it’s not the job of the judge to arrange a compromise that both sides can live with. That’s where mediation can assist, it will allow the parties to take ownership of the decisions made which directly impact them and their children . comes in, as it gives both sides much more control over the outcome . Mediation is not legally binding until the parties’ respective lawyers have ratified the same within a Court Order for approval by a Judge. as they can refuse to accept the mediator’s proposals at any stage and keep on parleying, and there’s more room for compromise.
“People often reject the idea of mediation because they’re worried about being bullied or can’t face seeing their ex, but you don’t have to sit in the same room (shuttle mediation) and it doesn’t stop you having a legal advice between mediation sessionsser at your side to help put your case.”
The remaining stages of the Children and Families Bill are expected to be completed in the next few months, but in the meantime January continues to be the peak period for couples deciding to separate, with official figures showing that internet searches for ‘divorce’ on Government sites such as www.justice.gov.uk peak in January.
And there are increasing numbers of older couples splitting up. Statistics show a 73% increase between 1991 to 2011 in the number of men aged 60+ who are divorcing.
Sshe added: “If a couple make that tough decision and decide to endcall time on their marriage, it’s important they don’t overlook the alternatives available such as mediation, collaborative law and family Arbitration, this will save money and in most cases reduce animosity and the feeling of being out of control that often exists when going through court proceedings. Extremely important when embarking upon the process of dissolving your marriage is updating yourtheir wills. If you have an existing will leaving everything to your spouse, that will become invalid once the decree absolute is grantedconfirmed, but until that time it is still valid even if you have separated or received your decree nisi.”
Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP Conflict Resolution Services department offers all forms of alternatives to Court proceedings; mediation, negotiation, collaborative law and family Arbitration – finding a better way through an often painful process!,
Young v Young  EWHC 3637 (Fam)
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This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.