Resolution welcomes move to pilot early legal advice for separating parents
- Pilot announced as government responds to consultation on supporting early resolution
- Family justice body also welcomes dropping of plans mooted for mandatory mediation
- More resources still needed for family courts facing significant delays
The Ministry of Justice has today published its response to the “Supporting Early Resolution” consultation, launched last year. The response announces plans for a pilot scheme to fund the provision of early legal advice for parents, as well as confirming the government will not be proceeding with previously announced plans to make family mediation compulsory for many separating couples.
Resolution, the family justice campaigning body, today welcomed the announcement, having called for public funding for early legal information and advice since the widespread withdrawal of legal aid more than ten years ago.
Jo Edwards from Resolution said:
“We welcome the announcement of a pilot for funding early legal advice and look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice to demonstrate how this can help separating parents find the right way forward for them and, where possible, reach agreement outside court.
“Resolution members are already helping people across the country do this every day and there is plenty of evidence to show the connection between couples receiving early legal advice and resolving issues on separation, in turn freeing up court time for the most needy cases (involving safeguarding issues or vulnerable people).
“We’re also pleased that the government has listened to Resolution and dropped proposals to compel couples into family mediation. Mediation can be extremely effective, but it’s not right for every couple and works best when it is entered into voluntarily. The proposals also risked making victims of domestic abuse feel that they had no option but to go into mediation.
“At the same time, it is important to recognise that for some, particularly where there are allegations of abuse, court will be the right way forward. Those using the family courts have seen increasingly significant delays over a number of years and outdated facilities, so we urge the government to ensure our courts are properly resourced in order to help those who rely on them.”
In November, Resolution launched its Vision for Family Justice, which sets out where and how changes need to be made to address the current issues facing the family justice system. This includes public funding for early legal information and advice, and ensuring there is better information available about all out of court options available.