Date updated: Tuesday 30th January 2024

According to government figures, 55,000 families each year resort to the family courts to work through their differences and resolve their disputes, often with protracted proceedings, resulting in prolonged stress, uncertainty and costs for all parties involved.

In an attempt for change, the Government began a consultation process in March 2023 on how the justice system can better support families to resolve their issues at the outset, without court involvement, where it is safe to do so.

On 26 January 2024, the Ministry of Justice published its response to the consultation and acknowledged that, as of June 2023, it is taking an average of 47 weeks for private law children cases to reach a final order. The Government says it is dedicated to reduce the turnaround to assist families to reach certainty at an earlier stage.

New measures have been announced to ensure that families are fully supported, with the goal to reaching an agreement. The key measures are as follows:-

  • Improved information for families when an issue first develops to help provide early guidance over what options are available and signposting to necessary support;

  • Mediation Voucher Scheme to continue. As of December 2023, 24,000 families have benefited from the scheme, enabling separating couples to access £500 towards the costs of mediation in connection with children issues, whatever their own financial circumstances;

  • Early legal advice to be available, increasing access to parenting programmes and encouraging dispute resolution where appropriate; and

  • Reforming the private family law system for those who do need to come to court so that it is more investigative and less adversarial, places the voice of the child at the heart of proceedings and provides additional support for those parents and carers who need it most.

The protection of children’s wellbeing is fundamental and the consultation’s response targets protecting children from the adverse effects of court proceedings. 

Meditation can be a very successful route to resolving family disputes. Our family mediators are experts and also able to offer child inclusive mediation. 

You’ll find our January 2024 Mediation Bulletin here. You may also be interested in our videos explaining more about mediation: watch An introduction to mediation, an introduction to MIAMs (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, and An introduction to Child Inclusive Mediation here 

The Ministry of Justice’s response to the consultation can be read here