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Mediation is not a new concept for the legal profession. There are lawyer mediators who have been mediating for more than 20 years. Yet for various reasons mediation is now getting more press than it has ever had before. On 6 April 2011 a new provision was introduced, via the Family Procedure Rules 2010, that anybody applying to the court for a financial order, or an order concerning a child in private proceedings, should explore the possibility of mediation first, save for in certain exceptional circumstances. There was speculation as to whether this would lead to a large increase in the amount of mediation work. Sadly some practitioners found ways to circumvent this requirement and judges were reluctant to enforce it. It was therefore relatively easy to issue an application without the client having attended a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAMs). There is talk that the requirement will be made compulsory in the Children and Families Bill but the wording has yet to be finalised.
Getting the message through
Then there was more change involving mediation with the withdrawal of legal aid for most family matters from April 2013 but with legal aid still available(for those who are eligible) for family mediation. This means that if a client is eligible for legal aid they may find that their only avenue for resolving matters is mediation. Despite these changes I have not spoken to a single mediator who has reported an avalanche of cases. It seems the mediation message is not yet something the general public is well versed in, yet for my own part I have seen a recent rise in direct enquiries - new clients are not just coming through on referral from another lawyer. Other mediators I have spoken to seem to
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