Marilyn Stowe’s bravery in speaking in her mind despite the possible backlash she may face is rapidly turning her into the Piers Morgan of the Family Law world; and I have to say that her (no doubt) unpopular opinion regarding the mediation voucher scheme has hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned.
Whilst I don’t agree with Marilyn’s contempt for mediation as I do find that for some couples it can work brilliantly – indisputably it isn’t for everyone, and it can waste as much money as it can potentially save.
I’d be very surprised if all family lawyers haven’t had a least one client that spent tens of thousands of pounds going through the exercise of voluntary financial disclosure and multiple mediation sessions, just to end up issuing court proceedings anyway and repeating the process and cost.
Sometimes, you just have to issue proceedings and as Marilyn points out, at the end of the day it’s what the court system is there for.
More importantly though, Marilyn also raises an issue which I am fiercely passionate about and it’s in relation to the antiquated position that all solicitors are forced into.
Currently we’re not allowed to represent both parties to a divorce, no matter how well they get on, and whether they are willing to sign any legal waiver under the sun.
It seems ludicrous that solicitors are not able to use their experience and common sense to decide when it would or would not be appropriate to advise both parties, yet – as the founders of The Divorce Surgery have discovered and capitalised on – barristers are able to do exactly that.
Innovation is a stalwart of our Hedges values and one solicitor representation is something we’re desperate to be able to offer our clients, so watch this space; if and when it can be done, be assured we’ll be leading the charge…
Rather than keep flogging vouchers for unpopular mediation, with all its obvious flaws, which in nearly 30 years has not appealed to the public, the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society/ SRA need to urgently get to grips with a concept that was not only an obvious way forward to me 4 years ago, but is now demonstrably succeeding, swiftly harness it and move with the times. All qualified family lawyers have the know-how and experience to advise sensible resolution, not only innovative Barristers who have had the gumption to seize the opportunity.