Unmarried Couples

Do I have to mediate?

April 30, 2024

The short answer is still “no” – mediation is voluntary. But there are changes today, 29 April, to the court rules (the Family Procedure Rules 2010) which show the court will ask questions if mediation hasn’t been tried.

The courts want to encourage people to mediate. The view from judges is that too many cases end up in court, which could be dealt with at mediation.

The new rules require everyone to send a form to court before the first hearing, whether it’s about children or finances, explaining their views on non court dispute resolution (such as mediation, arbitration or private FDR’s). This is in addition to the requirement to attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) before starting court proceedings. The new form is FM5 and you have to explain the reason why you aren’t trying these processes.

The courts can adjourn court hearings to allow mediation to take place. The court has the power to make costs orders against people if they don’t mediate. That means if the court thinks mediation is suitable, but you refuse to do it, the court can order you to pay towards your opponents legal fees.

All of these reflect how important this issue is to the court. At the same time, mediation is voluntary. The court has to recognise that some cases are suitable for mediation; and some cases aren’t. These changes re-draw the boundary and mean the court will (and must) be more¬† pro-active.

Remember, here at bbl we offer the government voucher scheme which provides ¬£500 towards the costs of every mediation which deals with arrangements for children (or children and finances). This isn’t means tested.

You need to be careful before applying to court if you haven’t tried non-court dispute resolution.