Between July 2011 and September 2014 a team at Exeter University conducted a detailed study of the state of the most common forms of Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). FDR is a term commonly used to describe options for making the arrangements for divorce and separation without recourse to the courts. It includes family mediation, solicitor negotiation and collabrative law. The team’s key findings can be found here.
They found that, amongst a survey groups generally accepted to be representative of the population as a whole, 32% had heard of solicitor negotiation, 44% had heard of mediation, and 14% had heard of collaborative law. Given that their study pre-dated the Ministry of Justice’s recent push on publicising mediation, we might reasonably expect those numbers to have changed, if only a little.
The most populate reason for selecting mediation was cost. Family mediation is known and accepted to be a much more cost effective means of addressing the questions that arise during divorce and the end of a relationship, and this has been borne out in a number of studies, including a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) which found that the cost of a mediated divorce was in the order of 45% of the cost of a similar case where mediation was not attempted.
A second reason was speed. This again bears out the results of the NAO study which found that mediated cases took on average 110 days to complete, while non-mediated cases took an average of 435.
Family mediation was also favoured because it gave the participants the opportunity to discuss the questions facing them in a structured environment which nevertheless let them set the agenda. The presence of the mediator and his or her interventions also helped things stay on topic, and prevented the conversation from being diverted. Another commonly cited advantage was that the mediator recorded the details of the points of agreement reached so that things would not afterwards be forgotten. Another recognised advantage was that mediation helped the ex-couple to communicate, and cooperate in the future, a vital requirement with separating couples who have children, and who will continue to have to make decisions together concerning the children’s upbringing.
Almost three quarters of the population surveyed by the University of Exeter team declared themselves to be satisfied by the mediation process.
The study concluded, amongst very many other things, that the Ministry of Justice should continue to promote the use of family mediation as a means of addressing questions during a divorce or the end of a relationship.