(4)couples in receipt of legal aid will have to use mediation unless they come within exclusion criteria (for example, violence) set by government, and
(5)legally aided clients will have limited access to legal advice and no representation on the basis that mediation will have resolved their disputes.
Newcastle research-child focused mediation
8.13Sixty two per cent of clients attending the mediation services surveyed were concerned only with child contact. Sixty per cent of mothers had sole custody, and 8% of fathers had sole custody. In 28% of cases the children lived with both parents and in 4% they shared time between parents.859 The researchers showed concern as to the limited amount of time spent in comprehensive mediation addressing children’s issues. If the parties presented pre-arranged plans for the children they would generally be accepted but financial pre-arranged plans were usually opened up for further discussion.860 The average time for a child focused mediation was 3 hours compared to 12.7 hours for comprehensive mediation.861
8.14The clients in child focused mediation were less satisfied with the outcome than the clients in comprehensive mediation - 38% were satisfied and 26% were dissatisfied. In comprehensive mediation over 50% were satisfied and 18% were dissatisfied. However, in looking at the broad objectives of mediation, beyond just focusing on the outcome, higher satisfaction was noted. In the child focused mediation, 61% agreed that it protected the best interests of children (5% disagreed), and it “sorted out custody and access” in 60% (10% disagreed). It also helped improve communication (53%) (though 12% disagreed) and it clarified areas of disagreement (59%) (6% disagreed).
Family Law Act 1996
8.15 The Family Law Act 1996 implemented the proposals contained in the White Paper. Part one deals with the general principles of the legislation and Part two deals with changes to the substantive law on divorce and separation. Part three introduces amendments to the Legal Aid Act 1988 to include legal aid for mediation in family matters. A number of practical details have been left to the regulations which are not yet completed. Even though it was enacted in July 1996, the timetable for implementation was anticipated to be 1998/99. This was to give time for the pilot projects to proceed and to be evaluated. An Advisory Board on Family Law has been established to advise on the implementation and operation of the Family Law Act 1996, including the mediation and information meeting pilots.
859 Ogus, Walker and Jones-Lee, Report to the Lord Chancellor on the costs and effectiveness of conciliation in England and Wales, (March 1989) at 43.
860 At 42.
861 At 48-9.