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'It is staggering that so many parents are effectively being left to fend for themselves. We urgently need to develop affordable and compelling services that strive to keep parents from the courtroom. Children need their parents to communicate effectively with each other so that conflict can be addressed and ultimately resolved.'Over half the rise in the number of unrepresented parties were women as low-income mums bore the brunt of the cuts to legal aid. Without access to legal aid for representation at court, the number of unrepresented mothers surged by 52% to almost 35,000. And for the first time, mothers made up more than half (53%) of all unrepresented parents attending court to contest child arrangements.
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'For too many parents, going to court is seen as the only option instead of a last resort. This is because family law services are simply too expensive for most separating families.Marc Lopatin, trained family mediator and founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com said:
We desperately need some innovation and alignment amongst lawyers and family mediators to develop services that meet the needs of parents in conflict. Lawyers and mediators working in tandem can build trust and get separating parents talking about the interests of their children. There’s not a lawyer in the land who can’t fix their fee to do this.'
'Legal aid remains available for mediation and it’s extremely effective at helping parents reach agreement. The biggest challenge is getting more parents to explore it. This won’t happen unless the Ministry of Justice uses legal aid to bring lawyers and mediators together. At present, it’s driving them apart.'In 2013/14, almost eight out of ten separating couples that began family mediation went on to reach agreement.* To encourage the take-up of family mediation, the government now insists the party taking legal action against their former partner first attend a mediation awareness meeting.