The Solicitors Journal recently reported that only one in five couples currently seek mediation before filing for divorce.
Figures obtained by National Family Mediation have revealed that out of 17,548 divorce applications in the first three months of 2016, only 3,855 couples sought mediation first in the form of a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). Other figures released in September show that the number of MIAMs taking place has so far fallen by 12% during the last quarter of this year.
Whilst take up of MIAMs has increased from 1.5% in 2014 to 7% a year later, this obviously still falls far short of the expected 100% target.
The government has been criticised for failing to pick up the pace on ensuring that all couples proposing to divorce, attempt mediation as a first course of action. It has been suggested for example, that family court judges have the power to recommend alternative measures to divorce in the short term and should be doing so in every instance. Certainly, with MIAM numbers appearing to fall rather than increase, the government needs to take action, quickly.
It is argued that this change to the law has not been publicised enough, with the majority of couples perhaps unaware of their legal obligations and, caught up in the heat and anger of the moment, forging straight ahead with divorce proceedings.
Estimates show that such a slow growth in the take up of MIAMs means that if it continues at a snail’s pace, full compliance will not be achieved until 2022.
It will be interesting to see how the government addresses this problem over the next few years, given not only the incredibly slow pace of growth since the legislation was passed, but the fact that take up actually appears to be lessening.