11th Nov 2021

FLiP’s Responds To Consultation On Family Dispute Resolution

By James Pirrie

FLiP Responds To MoJ’s Consultation On Family Law Dispute Resolution

FLiP has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on how non-court dispute resolution services can be brought into the mainstream.

FLiP was established over 25 years ago to provide a ground-breaking holistic service, bringing together family law expertise with in-house mediators and counsellors with a background in therapeutic rather than legal skills. Since then FLiP has been instrumental in developing, or at least early adopters of, most of the out of court dispute resolution models as we discuss here.

The Lord Chancellor, The Master of the Rolls, the President of the Family Division and others want to ‘mainstream non-adversarial dispute resolution mechanisms, so that resolving disagreements proactively and constructively becomes the norm.’

In our response to the consultation, FLiP suggested that too often a court application is forced upon professionals where they are faced with non-engagement: proceedings are issued to secure timetabling and progress towards a solution in the absence of one side joining the conversation. A decade ago, FLiP was proposing the creation of a timetabled protocol, backed by costs sanctions, where parties did not adopt it or were late in meeting the stage posts. We wonder whether the time for that idea is now.

Family arbitration may continue to offer some help, but for many it still operates as a minority interest; even now, the number of arbitrations struggles to reach treble figures in a year.

We welcome the family court continuing to clearly state its role as existing:

  • to address issues of protection;
  • as a forum for dispute resolution where one party is not engaging realistically in the negotiations; and/or
  • as regards enforcement – either to ensure each party provides the documents or other information needed for the court process or to ensure compliance with final awards where there is default).

Over time the culture would become that the family court is a last resort rather than a first step.

In our response to the consultation we also made proposals as regards strengthening the MIAM system and developing a door-of-court triage system that would protect the family court from receiving more cases by encouraging more of them into out of court services. We had a lot to say on the improvement of the tribunal system as was trailed in our response to the call for evidence on the Child Maintenance Service two months ago.

The levels of response to this latest consultation seem to have been very significant. We look forward to seeing what the Ministry of Justice makes of the responses, and the improvements to our family law dispute resolution system that may follow on.

For more information on FLiP’s distinctive approach to the resolution of family law issues, please click here. To find out how FLiP can support you in resolving your family law issues, please contact James Pirrie, or any of the specialist family and divorce lawyers at Family Law in Partnership on T: 020 7420 5000 or E: hello@flip.co.uk.