Guardian.co.uk reports - Last week the government's independent Justice Review Panel published its interim report on the family justice system in England and Wales.
It is a welcome and broad review of a system that is, as noted by the panel's chair, David Norgrove, under serious strain. Too many cases involving separating families take too long to resolve, with children sometimes waiting more than a year for their futures to be determined. The panel has rightly pointed out that lengthy, complicated legal processes are emotionally and financially draining for parents and distressing for children.
Its recommendations, now out for consultation, are thoughtful and intelligent. They include a positive emphasis on encouraging separating couples to consider non-court dispute resolution services, and on assessing whether they need parenting information.
So far, so good. But the government, apparently too impatient to wait for anything as slow as a fully consulted, well-considered and balanced review – even one commissioned by itself – introduced new rules on mediation for separating couples on Wednesday.
Under the changes, first announced by the justice minister Jonathan Djanogly in February, couples wishing to go to court should now first attend a meeting with a mediator who will assess whether their case is suitable for mediation. Read the article.