Courts in the United Kingdom have just made mediation mandatory for family law disputes. Mail Online, October 18, 2010. The courts moved to this system because it determined that the normal system is “really intolerable for both children and parents – and damaging.” The chair of the committee implementing the change, David Norgrove, also noted: ‘There is a general sense that more cases can and should be devolved from the court-based process.” In addition to the emotional benefit for the parties and children, the Courts anticipate saving over 100 million pounds in legal aid and more, because hiring experts will not be necessary.
The United Kingdom’s court system is not the first to implement this change. In fact, family law mediation is even mandatory in California, where 75 percent of all cases are resolved through mediation. IrishTimes.com, October 11, 2010.
The real question is: when will Arizona require mediation for family law litigants? Mandatory mediation makes good sense for Arizona. Arizona families suffer just as much as United Kingdom families through the Court process. Litigation is expensive, stressful, confusing, time consuming, risky and – yes – damaging to children. Arizona’s court system is also over-crowded, making it difficult for the court to dispense quick justice in the cases that really need it (for example, cases where there has been significant domestic violence).
In mediation, the mediator works with the parties to reach agreements on all issues. Where an expert or advice is needed, that need is addressed in an amicable manner. The mediator guides the mediation participants through the whole process, making addressing a family law matter, uncomplicated, quick, inexpensive and amicable. What is more – a vast majority of mediations are successful.
Many states and countries have recognized these facts. Arizona should follow suit and require all family law litigants to at least try mediation before going to Court. Until Arizona courts take that step, Arizona citizens facing family law disputes can voluntarily choose to engage in this process that is being embraced around the world.
Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.