Ministers say children will be better protected and family disputes will be less stressful following changes to legislation relating to divorce and separation.
The main changes are that separating couples will be obliged to attend mediation sessions to try to reach agreements regarding childcare and finances, before they can take their disputes to court.
If mediation proves unsuccessful, the courts will try to settle cases with both parents being granted regular contact with their children, when it is safe and beneficial. There will also be a 26-week deadline to settle family disputes.
Family Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes, said: “We are making sure the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system.
“We want to keep families away from the negative effects that going to court can have and to use alternative solutions when they are suitable. This is why we have changed the law to make sure that separating couples always consider mediation as an alternative to a courtroom battle.
“When cases go to court we want them to happen in the least damaging way. So we are improving processes, reducing excessive delays, and we have also changed the law so that care cases must be completed within 26 weeks.”
The amendments, effective from 22 April, are at the recommendation of the 2011 Family Justice Review.
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