New law on meditative approaches to divorce is welcome, but it has flaws – 23/2/2011

“Today new proposals on meditative approaches to divorce were announced.

From the 6th April couples will be made to undertake meditative counselling before proceedings can go to court.

This is a welcome development as The National Audit Office estimates, on average, savings of over £2000 in legal costs through such approaches. Mediated cases are also completed in an average of 110 days as opposed to 435 days for couples that settle their issues in court.

As an accredited member of Resolution, a professional body that promotes meditative and collaborative approaches to law, I am fully in favour of any initiative that reduces the trauma and conflict that is often present in divorce cases.

But I am cautious because if one side does not wish to try the meditative route, it can still be viewed that the approach has been considered. So the new proposal has a notable weakness that could compromise its good intentions and effectiveness.

I am hopeful though because the number of couples using publicly funded mediation is up to 14,600 in 2010 from 400 in 1997, so we have to be optimistic that divorcing couples will give mediation a try.”

Neil Grunfeld head of family law