Family justice reform in England and Wales to promote the use of mediation, in hopes the parents can work it out between themselves before engaging in custody proceedings, as a bonus it will save some money (especially for those needing a public defender). No mention of domestic abuse in this article, and I am not familiar with the justice system in England and Wales. Can anyone provide any more info, please post below.
The problem with mediation is that it does not enforce a system of justice or fair rules–and it may lead to further trauma for the children, and prolonged litigation. For victims of domestic violence, mediation may put their lives at risk or force a partner to agree just because they are afraid. Mediation does not address the serious issues, and conflicts that arise in custody proceedings and it cannot ensure the safety of children. And in certain cases, it can actually prevent a parent from the protection of the law.
I went through a form of mediation myself, and so I may be biased… After two years of family court litigation, I was beaten down by the system and had all my rights taken away. An abusive, wanted fugitive with a serious mental illness known to cause violence was granted temporary custody of my two children. Temporary lasted for a year and a half and was just an excuse to create just cause so the children would remain with my ex. The system completely failed my family, I had no protection under the law–and no one was listening to my concerns. I was caught between more abuse in family court or just putting up with one abuser–my ex.
My case involves allegations of abuse against myself and my children at the hands of my ex. We became homeless after he physically attacked me. Then he threatened to make up stories that I am crazy and take the kids from me. I did not believe such a thing was possible until it actually happened. After two years of litigation, I went into an informal mediation for permanent custody.
During the process, I was being threatened by my Guardian ad Litem that if I don’t come to an agreement with my abuser “Things could get much worse” and “I have seen how custody trials go, you are lucky to get as much time with your kids as you have”. She told me this just after I spent most the year in supervised visitation for bogus, made up charges–and all my visits went extremely well, and they could find nothing wrong with my parenting.
Anyways, my ex spent “mediation” threatening me, and using my kids as a bargaining chip to get his way. He was making bizarre religious comments to me and saying stuff like “God tells me when the kids can have time with you” and telling me I need to “forgive” him, and coming up with bits of Bible verse to support whatever agenda he has. Like a dummy, I thought we came to an agreement. I have spent at least 6 months trying to get my life together, my ex has refused to comply with the terms of our mediation, He admitted to sabotaging the agreement because he is angry with me, and feels I do not deserve rights to my children. Both my children have suffered. My son’s mental health has gotten so bad, I fear he will have a nervous breakdown and he is 9 years old. And we are going back to court because mediation failed, and I am demanding something more be done…
So my advise, be careful. You want the best. You want a compromise, and things to get back to normal. But you also need your rights, and to be heard and respected for any agreement to happen. If mediation works–great! But in high conflict situations, you may need more help, and more reinforcement to get issues resolved. DO NOT COMPROMISE YOUR SAFETY OR THAT OF YOUR CHILDREN. Seek legal advise before entering into any agreement.
Evanlee Perth, 2010
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TITLE: Fundamental review of the family justice system announced
DATE: 20 January 2010
An expert panel will examine reform of the current family justice system in England and Wales so that it better supports children and parents under a wide-ranging review announced by the Ministry of Justice today. The review will look at the best methods for avoiding confrontational court hearings, and encouraging the use of mediation to deliver fairer and less acrimonious settlements that place the needs and interests of children at the heart of the system.
The announcement today is part of the cross-government Families and Relationships Green Paper, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which looks at how to reduce conflict when relationships break down as part of wider government support for the family. The paper also contains proposals which would make it compulsory for privately-funded clients of the family justice system to consider using mediation before having child access disputes are heard in court – bringing it into line with the current system covering families represented by legal aid. Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: ‘We know that for many families the current family justice system is proving far too complicated, and its adversarial nature can lead to bitter, lengthy court hearings, prolonging what is already a stressful and emotionally draining experience. ‘While the vast majority of separating parents settle their disputes privately, for those who do need to access to the system we need to find a better, fairer way to forge lasting agreements for the care of children.
Research shows that children adjust to family breakdown better when a couple manages to maintain working relations following a separation – the review is about making sure the justice system helps parents to achieve this.’ The government will also continue its work on ensuring people involved in family proceedings know about the availability and benefits of mediation, through providing online information on mediation and exploring ways to reach families with the information they need before their case comes to court. It will also work with the Family Mediation Council to build on existing accreditation schemes for mediators. Additionally we are asking for peoples’ views on whether making family mediation assessment sessions compulsory for privately-funded court users, bringing them into a similar regime as legally aided court users, will increase awareness and take up of family mediation. A Review Panel, made up of independent and government representatives, will be appointed in the coming weeks, and will consider wider perspectives from a range of people involved in or experiencing the family justice system and will include possible calls for evidence, focus groups and formal consultation as part of its work.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families said: ‘Children are often caught up in the middle when parents decide to separate and this can have a devastating impact on their lives and their future relationships. Whilst family relationships are very private matters, there is a role for government to help families find ways to resolve conflict faster in order to limit the negative impact on children’s wellbeing. ‘The majority of parents have their children’s best interests at heart and are committed to making the separation process as easy as possible for their family. However, this is a difficult time and that many separating parents struggle to establish contact agreements, to communicate effectively with one another and to continue to parent cooperatively. That is why we are giving parents better information about mediation earlier on in the separation process so that we can help families, especially children, through this difficult time.’
Family Justice Review terms of reference Family Justice Review terms of reference (PDF 0.02mb 2 pages)
Notes to editors For more information, please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. For more information on the wider Green Paper on Families and Relationships please call the DCSF Press office on 020 7340 8188.
A related article: Vulnerable women and children bear brunt of cuts in family justice system, The Bar Council, 3/9/2009: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/news/press/671.html