Wiltshire law firm explains major changes to proceedings

By Barrie Hudson - 15 May 2024


Changes to family proceedings recently came into force across England and Wales.

The changes have prompted Awdry Law - which has offices in Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett, Devizes, Chippenham and Marlborough - to issue an explanation for anybody unsure of their implications.

There is now a greater expectation and duty on Family Lawyers, the Courts and separating couples and/or parents to assess at each stage of the proceedings whether other methods of dispute resolution would be suitable.

Before making any application to court, unless there are safeguarding concerns such as domestic abuse, separating couples and/or parents are required to attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting). 

The new changes now confirm that information must be provided about the principles, process and different models of mediation, and other methods of non-court dispute resolution (NCDR).

Although this change does not give courts the power to compel parties to use alternative routes to dispute resolution, there will be a duty to assess whether alternative options would be appropriate.

Cindy Ervine, Head of Family Law at Awdry Law, welcomes the changes and said: “The changes reflect the need for a move away from an adversarial approach and to support families as needed. Non-court dispute resolution reduces the pressure on the Family Courts and also seeks to minimise the impact on children within the family as to ongoing conflict, with the emphasis on positive parenting.

"At Awdry Law, our focus is on helping and supporting clients to reach an agreement that works for their family. We make all attempts to resolve matters in a non-confrontational way, away from the Court. 

"By focusing on solutions and taking a proactive approach, we seek to resolve matters effectively and meet the needs of our client.”

When asked what alternative options there are for help and support further to relationship breakdown, other than attending Court, Cindy pointed out that:

- Mediation is a way of sorting any differences between you and your ex-partner, with the help of a third person who won’t take sides. The third person is called a mediator and their role is to facilitate.

- There is also the option of a ‘Resolution Together’ framework whereby a lawyer can help both you and your partner to reach agreement together. Legal advice is provided jointly, instead of by ay of the traditional approach of having two separate lawyers.

- Alternatively, a round table meeting provides an opportunity for both parties and their lawyers to work together to see if an agreement can be reached; the benefit being that matters can be concluded, without the need for Court Proceedings and a high level of letters back and forth between Solicitors / Lawyers.

- There is also a collaborative framework which again involves both parties and their respective solicitors with both parties committing to working together away from the Court forum.

Awdry Law solicitors provide legal services to individuals, families and businesses, and further information can be found at https://awdry.law/for-individuals/family-law/divorce-law/divorce-law.aspx

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