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UK Orders Mandatory Mediation for Divorcing Couples

To mediate or not to mediate? That is the question for many newly-speared couples seeking divorce advice in Pasadena. After all, mediation can be an effective way for couples to sort out their issues without having to go to court. In England, mediation is now required for all separating couples in an effort to reduce the number of couples who spend months embroiled in expensive divorce battles.

On Wednesday, Britain announced that divorcing couples will be referred to mediation first to sort out most marital disputes before they are allowed to use the courts. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly believes that mediation is "a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative" to the country's over-worked and cash-strapped family courts. England and Wales will enforce the mediation regulations beginning on April 6, 2011. British officials are quick to note that domestic violence and child protection cases, however, will still go to court.

"Mediation already helps thousands of legally-aided people across England and Wales every year, but I am concerned those funding their own court actions are missing out on the benefits it can bring," Djanogly said. "Now everyone will have the opportunity to see if it could be a better solution than going straight to court."

Under the new rules, any person seeking a divorce will have to undergo a mediation assessment first. If it's decided that mediation is not a viable option, only then can the case proceed to court.

At the heart of England's new affinity for mediation is the cost of divorces. Opponents to mandatory meditation say that the new law could hurt those who rely on the country's free legal aid.

"The government is creating a myth that mediation is a panacea in order to justify cuts to legal aid which will take areas such as this, where people desperately need advice out of scope," says Law Society president Linda Lee.

Djanogly, on the other hand, sees mediation as a way to cut down on the country's $2 billion a year spent on legal aid.

"Our proposals aim to radically reform the system and encourage people to take advantage of the most appropriate sources of help, advice or routes to resolution - which will not always involve the expense of lawyers or courts."

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