Now more than ever the benefits of Dispute Resolution in parental conflicts over children are clear. Mediation and arbitration offer resolution to parents and do so more constructively, more speedily and with less conflict than court proceedings provide.
Family lawyers have long known and appreciated the benefits of resolving disputes outside of court, but successive lockdowns, and increased pressures on the court system, have bought to the fore the need to avoid the courts themselves where possible.
Now the most recent figures released from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) show that they have had a huge uplift in new cases year on year.
In March 2021 there were 4,659 new cases in the courts of England and Wales where private individuals were in dispute as to arrangements or care for their children. That the year-on-year figures have risen by more than a third is perhaps not surprising given where we were last March and April, but it reflects a worrying reality that the numbers of disputes reaching the court are on the increase and have been for months. Even with coronavirus and national lockdowns, eight of the past 12 months have had higher numbers of new private law cases that the corresponding month the year before.
Then March 2021 itself saw the highest number of new private law children cases Cafcass had had in any month for at least five years.
The court system and Cafcass itself were stretched and under-resourced before Coronavirus. Now, with a backlog to work through and more new cases than ever to deal with, I am recommending mediation and arbitration to my clients more than ever.
My colleague Carrie Rudge is an experienced and qualified Family mediator and is always happy to talk to potential new clients about the benefits of mediation and out-of-court options for parents.
[Cafcass] received 4,659 new private law cases in March 2021 which is 1,282 cases (38.0%) more than the same period in 2020