Here are our predictions for the field of family law in 2012:
1. We expect to see continued interest in mediation and other forms of ADR, particularly given the increasing costs to individuals of litigation and higher court fees, combined with the increasingly overburdened court system.
2. We expect to see further development of, and governmental support for, methods of ADR particularly in light of the support given to methods of ADR in the Final Report of the Family Justice Review.
3. We may also see an increase in litigants in person, individuals who are unable or unwilling to engage lawyers, preferring to make use of the online divorce tools available to them but who ultimately end up at court. This is likely to lead to delays in the court system with resulting spiralling emotional cost to all concerned.
4. The inability of separating couples to sell their marital home in the current housing slump may encourage couples to stick together for longer. In some cases this may lead to increased pressure and frustration within the relationship making an amicable and negotiated settlement all the more difficult to achieve.
5. We will see the use of arbitration as an alternative method of dispute resolution.
6. We anticipate increased interest in the support available for families which can be accessed outside the court process, including parenting courses like the Parenting After Parting workshops run by our firm. Even today (3 January 2012) we have seen news of a foundation established by Sir Paul Coleridge to defend marriage and reduce the “scourge” within society of family breakdowns through lobbying for family friendly policies, holding seminars and commissioning research into strengthening marriage.
7. Prenuptial agreements will become increasingly popular, with the Law Commission due to report on marital property agreements during 2012.
8. We are likely to see a review of the process of MIAMs following its hurried introduction in April 2011.
9. Potentially more disputes might arise in the area of shared care and applications for international relocation following the case of Re K (Children) . In particular, we may see separating partners rushing to achieve a strong bargaining position through their involvement with the children or alternatively seeking to relocate before their ability to do so is diminished.
10. Proposed changes to the system of child support following the review carried out by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will become clearer. There is a danger that the proposals could lead to an increase in child poverty.
11. We are likely to see further development in the practice of micro forum shopping at the time of divorce resulting from recent cases in which courts around the country have given different levels of provision to applicants for divorce in broadly similar circumstances.
12. As individuals find it harder to raise funds for litigation from banks and other sources of finance this may result in fully funded clients becoming prized commodities for some family lawyers, and we may see an erosion by some lawyers of the principle that the client’s interests are paramount.
13. We will begin to see the full impact of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and hope to see the emergence of a clearer code for all family proceedings.
For enquiries about mediation, collaborative law, litigation or other issues related to family law, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 7420 5000.