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In this Issue

Letter from the Chair
Back to the Future: Mediation Then and Now – FMA 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Conference on 25 and 26 June 2013
John Rainsford Cornwell 21 September 1943 - 22 February 2013
Threat or Opportunity - Legal Aid in Mediation – the Future.
Calling all PPCs – PPC Audit
PPC Network
Where will your CPD points come from this year?
Changes to the benefits system from April 2013 – is your area affected?
Fault Divorce.
Letter from the Newsletter Editor
News Bites
Cases Update



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Letter from the Chair

A brief contribution to the March newsletter from me, as March seems to have resulted in a tsunami of referrals leaving little time for anything else. If you are involved in public funding mediation, you presumably have a similar situation in your service, in which all local solicitors want their clients seen before the end of March. Their urgent need is for App7s to be returned to them before the solicitors’ deadline for applying for public funding, which expires one week later. In my service, we are working evenings and weekends to get through this wave of referrals as we try to maintain good relationships with solicitors, whilst also converting appropriate cases to mediation. The demand will of course dramatically reduce after 1st April.

From April on, we will then all be in the same situation, in that whether we undertake public funding mediation or not, we will all be looking for referrals to our services. There will be no more ‘automatic’ referrals to public funding mediation services. Uncertain and challenging times, with an increased need to publicize our services and with most of us within the public funding sector experiencing a much lower level of referrals.

Other than this, FMA have been spending considerable time progressing the arrangements for the 25th Anniversary dinner and conference. As you will have read elsewhere we now have confirmation that the Gala Dinner on 25th June, and conference ‘Back to the Future’ - Mediation Then and Now’ on 26th June, will take place in the splendid Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. We are delighted that Lord Wilson, the President of the Family Mediators Association, will preside over the dinner and Cherie Blair, one of our Vice Presidents, will be attending and speaking at the dinner. Mr Justice Ryder has also confirmed his delivery of the keynote speech to the conference. The conference, in recognition of the 25th anniversary year will also contain a ‘Talking Heads’ item with a number of our Founders, including Henry Brown, Lisa Parkinson and Felicity Blair; Lisa Parkinson will also deliver the John Cornwell memorial lecture at John’s specific request. It looks to be an exciting and very memorable event. More details about the conference are included below, and our full programme of events will follow shortly. We hope you will consider joining us at the dinner, at the Conference – or even at both, to meet and mix with many great names in mediation.

Have a good and particularly restful Easter!


Back to the Future: Mediation Then and Now – FMA 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Conference on 25 and 26 June 2013

At our Back to the Future: Mediation Then and Now Conference we have a wonderful programme for you, which will both look back at our achievements over the last 25 years and help to prepare all of us for the many challenges ahead. The speakers are all exceptionally well placed to explain what is changing for mediators over the next few years, and how best to approach those changes.

Mr Justice Ryder
We are delighted to announce that Mr Justice Ryder has agreed to give the keynote speech. As the judge in charge of the Family Justice Modernisation Programme, Mr Justice Ryder has been overseeing the implementation of various far-reaching changes to the family justice system. Have a look  at this link for his brief, lucid updates explaining where we are in the process. Many of the changes concern public law work (children in care and adoptions) but, as you know, they also include some very important changes to private family law, including an increased emphasis on mediation. Mr Justice Ryder, as the judge leading the process, is in a unique position to explain what has happened so far, what is about to happen, and to answer your questions about the implications for your practice. He has a particular interest both in making sure that the voice of the child is heard and in mediation, having been a vocal supporter of alternative and more proportionate dispute resolution mechanisms for many years, not only in the sphere of private family disputes but also in some care cases. For more of Mr Justice Ryder’s biographical details, click here.

Lisa Parkinson – The John Cornwell Lecture
We are tremendously grateful to Lisa Parkinson, one of FMA’s founders, Vice-President of FMA, and of course the author of the seminal text ‘Family Mediation’, who is going to deliver the very first John Cornwell lecture. Many of you have heard the very sad news that John Cornwell, one of our founders and the founder of SFLA (now Resolution), died on 22 February. His extraordinary legacy lives on and will be honoured in the John Cornwell Memorial Lecture to be given each year at FMA's annual conference. John asked for Lisa to give the first of these lectures, and this, our 25th Anniversary conference, provides a very special platform for the inaugural John Cornwell lecture. The title of Lisa's lecture will be 'Innovation, Inspiration and Change' because, as she will suggest in her presentation, John Cornwell changed the whole culture and practice of family law in this country. As well as founding SFLA, he was a member of the pilot project, 'Solicitors in Mediation' – consisting of John, Henry Brown, Jack Bleiman, Diana Parker, Felicity White and Lisa - who together pioneered interdisciplinary co-mediation on all issues and launched FMA in 1988.

FMA Founders
Lisa is also going to feature in a panel discussion between some of our founders, including Henry Brown and Felicity White, looking back over the last 25 years and forward to the next 25 years. The early days of the FMA are mentioned in Jeremy Abrahams' moving recollection of John Cornwell in this month’s newsletter, and this conversation between three of the most influential members of the family mediation community will provide a more personal opportunity to remember John, to celebrate his legacy, and to pose some interesting questions for the future of family mediation in general, and of the FMA in particular. So please bring your own creative thinking along and join us on 26 June.

Judith Timms
One of the many challenges to be faced in the future is the growing emphasis throughout the family justice system on hearing the voice of the child. Who better to address the conference on this subject than Judith Timms OBE, another of our distinguished Vice-Presidents, and the founder and former Chief Executive of the National Youth Advocacy Service. Judith will focus on children’s needs and experiences of the divorce process, and on how mediators can help to provide effective support to children caught up in the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.

David Allison, James Carroll and Haema Sundram
Another exciting area of rapidly developing law and practice is that of gay and lesbian relationships. David Allison from FLiP, James Carroll from Russell-Cooke and Haema Sundram from Covent Garden Family Law are going to make a presentation concerning both civil partnership and the imminent prospect of same-sex marriage, focusing on how mediation is the place to deal with many of the related issues, including pre-nups, family formation and family breakdown with particular attention to children matters.

Workshops
Both of our workshops also look to the future: one supports and develops JudthTimm’s presentation, offering practical guidance in respect of direct consultation with children; the other looks at ways in which individual mediators can use new technologies to develop their practices in a variety of ways.

Our workshop about direct consultation with children is being run by Ruth Smallcombe, our Vice-Chair, and a founder member of FLiP. This session is designed not only to follow up on the survey she conducted earlier this year, but also to link in with Judith Timm’s presentation earlier in the day. Ruth, who has a wealth of experience as a mediator, PPC, counsellor, and trainer, will be focusing on how mediators can adapt their practice to build the child’s voice into the process.

Our technology workshop will be run by Stephen Anderson, of Anderson Family Matters, whom many of you will know from his influential twitter account (Stephen G Anderson@MediationNotWar) and his involvement with the Linked In group Collaborative Family Professionals and Mediators in England and Wales. Stephen, a mediator and collaborative lawyer, will be looking at how to make the current technologies work for you, and also at what the future is likely to hold in terms of new technologies.

Lord Wilson
As many of you know this is Lord Wilson’s last year as President, after 15 years of hard work on our behalf, and he will be opening and closing the conference with his own perspective on the past and future of the FMA. We know that many of you will want to thank him in person for his commitment to and support of FMA; he has been an extraordinary friend to FMA over the years.

Drinks reception
In this, our anniversary year, we want to finish on a celebratory note, and we are therefore holding a drinks reception at the end of the day, to give all of us a chance to toast FMA, and to find out more about the people we have shared the conference with, from new colleagues to old friends, in a relaxed environment. Please do join us for this joyous finale!

Gala Dinner
We are also holding a Gala Dinner the night before the conference, on June 25, and have deliberately chosen a format and a venue that will accommodate everyone who might wish to attend.

Our hope is that having the same venue for the conference and the Gala dinner will make it easier for people visiting London to attend both; indeed all our planning for the Gala dinner has been designed to make it as inclusive and friendly a celebration as possible. We have therefore opted for a buffet in one of the spacious and elegant rooms at the Central Methodist Hall.

This should mean that everyone who wants to will have the opportunity to celebrate our 25th anniversary, mixing with FMA colleagues and friends in a more relaxed atmosphere than would be possible with more formal dining.

For this very special occasion we are inviting our founders and all our Vice-Presidents; this will provide us with a unique opportunity to thank them for their hard work over the years on our behalf. Among the distinguished guests who will be joining us, Cherie Blair QC is attending as Vice President, and she will be saying a few words to mark the occasion.

The Central Methodist Hall has a ‘responsible drinking’ policy, which means that we can’t offer unlimited alcohol through the evening, but the wine will certainly flow sufficiently freely for everyone to have a very enjoyable time.

June 25 Gala Dinner
June 26 FMA Conference
Registration

The cost of the Gala dinner is £73 (incl. VAT) and the dinner is open to members and non-members alike.
The early bird rate for the conference has been extended, in recognition of the overwhelming flow of work that so many mediators have been dealing with in the past few weeks – the early bird rate now ends on Friday 3 May 2013.
Early Bird Rate: Member: £162 (incl. VAT)
Early Bird Rate: Non-Member: £282 (incl. VAT)
The conference will award 5 CPD points. There are no CPD points attached to the dinner.
Register online now to secure your place.


John Rainsford Cornwell 21 September 1943 - 22 February 2013

John Cornwell was a very modest man.  It is unlikely he would have blown a trumpet unless he was required to do so in a theatrical production of the sort he so enjoyed.  He was also quite fearless, a quality that was invaluable in implementation of his ideas. Logic led him to conclude that his legal practice would best be served by founding his own law firm and that the interests of those experiencing divorce would best be served by an organisation promoting a conciliatory approach to divorce proceedings. To him it would be incontrovertible, having reached those conclusions, to put in hand Dawson Cornwell in 1972 and the Solicitors Family Law Association (now Resolution) in 1982.

Not content with those achievements, either of which would cause most of us to rest on our laurels, John was “in at the beginning” of the Family Mediators Association in 1988. Its origins were more diverse and complex than John’s two earlier creations. There was a disparate cast of characters in this production. One of them, Lisa Parkinson, was from that background lawyers label as “therapeutic”. Apart from those two, the team included four lawyers, Henry Brown, Jack Bleiman, Felicity White and Diana Parker. Henry told me recently that John was an incredibly important part of the team because of his experience in founding the SFLA and his enthusiasm for mediation. John’s modest recollection given to me some weeks before he died was that he was just there! 

As to his mediation practice, for those of us that can remember 1989 as part of our adult lives, John spent some of that year keeping handwritten financial records that he preserved for our posterity in a filing cabinet adjacent to the second and third totems of that practice, his flip chart and his comfortable, enveloping, sofa. I can tell from those records that from early on he had what many of us in mediation would enviously regard as a busy practice.

Whilst John’s sofa is unlikely now to achieve the fame of Freud’s apparatus, I have heard many stories (at least one from John) of how mediations were begun and ended by it, the participants having sunk so comfortably in it as to be unable to extract themselves with ease, and thereby promoting consensus. Not for John the round table and four chairs in an anodyne environment. I do not think he would have taken to the title “maverick”. It does not sit easily with the roles of District Judge or as an active member of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks he also espoused, but clearly, to have the enthusiasm, vision and drive to start (or to contribute significantly in FMA’s case) to three well known bodies, a robust personality has to have been in play.

Although I never thought to ask John whether he preferred sole or co-mediation as a model, it is clear to me from the records that he kept that in the early years co-mediation was his choice long after sole mediation was introduced.  It is also clear to me that co-mediation was possibly a better paid activity for John in those early days than it is for many of us today, since £180 for a session in 1990 would equate to roughly £420 today!

I know from several conversations with him on the subject that what appealed to John about mediation was its ability to deliver a pragmatic solution in a swift and comparatively cheap context. From testimonials, I think what most impressed the participants was John’s natural sense of fairness and the calm with which he generally delivered his contributions, qualities which I feel sure he would recommend to all of us in our mediation practice and in life generally.

Jeremy Abraham


Threat or Opportunity - Legal Aid in Mediation – the Future.

The funding of Legal Aid in family cases is changing dramatically after 1st April. For the majority of people funding will no longer be available through solicitors but it will still be available for clients in mediation. So why, as the proprietor of a modest mediation service, am I so worried? I feel guilty about being worried. I know that my friends and colleagues who currently undertake publicly funded work in solicitors’ offices are facing an even more difficult time. So far I have heard of redundancies and even entire firms closing down.

What are the major changes we mediators will face?

• Loss of Willingness Test payments
• Eligibility changes
• Loss of Funding Code referrals

Loss of Willingness Test payments
Perhaps the biggest impact on services initially will be the loss of the Willingness Test payment. For many services this payment covers the cost of admin support and its loss will result in a substantial drop in turnover, while expenses will at least remain the same, unless new ways can be found to reduce them. For those services where this work is done by mediators, there will be a resultant drop in their income too. We are told that this loss is likely to be offset by the greater number of cases coming to mediation. No-one knows if this will turn out to be the case in the long term but my concern is that in the short term the loss will certainly not be offset.

Eligibility changes
We then face the next hurdle for those cases that do come to mediation after April. Although the Financial Regulations do not yet appear to have been published by the MOJ, it is clear from the online training set up on the LSC website that there are changes to eligibility (have a look at Legal Aid Training for the details).

Passporting benefits will no longer guarantee entitlement to funding and assessments of capital will be required. Capital calculations mean the SMOD allowance will be, in effect, capped, as will the amount of mortgage taken into account. All this will mean that fewer clients will qualify.

Loss of Funding Code referrals
Another hurdle is the loss of the Funding Code referral and I will openly admit that I have sleepless nights about this. How can we ensure that clients provide the correct evidence to establish their eligibility for funding? In my service we explain in writing what clients need to bring; we send them a checklist; when they book an appointment they are asked about their financial position and told what to bring, but when they come along the range of excuses is incredible. In my service we have had “I have left it on the sideboard”; “It’s been eaten by the dog”; “I didn’t think it was needed”; “My solicitor has it” (well, at least that one will not apply!) or “I picked up the wrong wage slip/bank statement or whatever by mistake”, to mention just a few.

I know that solicitors have faced this problem for years, but, in the main, solicitors’ practices undertaking legal aid work are much bigger than mediation services and have greater resources, and they tend not to have outreach offices that they rent by the hour or day. Also they do not cover just one area of expertise. I can so easily envisage a situation in which mediators will travel and pay to rent rooms, without getting paid a penny for all this. We could charge clients and then refund them if the correct evidence is then supplied but there is the extra admin that is needed, not to mention the bank or credit card company charges, and my experience is that many clients will simply not be able to pay, and will instead just leave. Some of the clients we all deal with are in such a bad place that they really struggle with even basic tasks.

Many clients will want to know if they qualify before coming in. We have, in the past, referred clients to the Eligibility calculator and their experience is mixed. Some have assured us they have used it and that they qualify, but it eventually emerges that they don’t. Others say they didn’t understand it. All this will mean extra work for the admin staff that we may no longer be able to afford to pay. You can find the calculator here if you would like to refer clients to it.

I am also concerned that we will be seeing more clients whose cases are not really suitable for mediation and that, when we are not able to help, this will result in more complaints and possibly aggressive behaviour to staff.

The future is very uncertain. What is very clear to me is that we will not be able to offer a legal aid service to clients if we cannot make ends meet.

I think you will be able to tell from this article that I consider the changes a Threat rather than Opportunity. I do hope that I am wrong and that I will be writing another article in a few months explaining how to thrive in this new environment.

Is it just me or are there other mediators who run services out there who are as worried about the post April changes as I am? If you are interested in joining a forum to provide mutual support please e-mail me under the subject Forum.

Also Mary Banham-Hall from Focus in Milton Keynes has suggested that it would be a good idea to collate some information on turnover from some of the larger services to help track legal aid income with a view to presenting this to the LSC. If you are interested in participating please e-mail me under the subject Tracking Turnover.

Sue West


Calling all PPCs – PPC Audit

You will all have received an email requesting that you send us evidence of your PPC status. As the email explained, we are required to establish that we hold a PPC register for audit purposes. The requirements will however go beyond showing that we have a register. We will also be required to show that all those on the list are entitled to be included. In any event, as a major mediation association, we should have such evidence whether or not we are going to be audited.

Some of the PPCs who supervise our members were trained as such by organizations other than the FMA. Provided that those are recognized bodies, all that we need from you is evidence for our records of that body having awarded you PPC status, and that you meet any ongoing requirements for maintaining that status.

As for the FMA, the association has always required that, in order to be a PPC, people need not only successfully to complete a FMA PPC training course, but also to have attained what used to be called “FMA accreditation” and is now re-badged as “Senior Mediator status” (SMS). I want to make it absolutely clear that if you are accredited, you definitely hold Senior Mediator status.

FMA accreditation/SMS is not LSC recognition. It is not simply having successfully attended a foundation training course. It is a level beyond either of those, which is unique to the FMA. It requires, amongst other things, preparation of a folder of work specific to an application for FMA accreditation/SMS.

I am aware that some members attended PPC training courses prior to their having achieved FMA accreditation/SMS. However, in order actually to be recognized by FMA as an FMA PPC, it is always necessary to have FMA accreditation/SMS. Those members who attended PPC courses without already having attained FMA accreditation/SMS were told when they were trained that they were required to obtain FMA accreditation/SMS within 12 months.

Can I thank the very many of you who have sent in your evidence. Can I urge all of you who have not already sent it in, to do so as soon as possible? If you have been in touch but have had a query about what you have sent in, please do respond as soon as you can.

We know that there are some members who have not yet established a PPC practice who successfully completed a course but have not yet attained accreditation/SMS. If you attended the course within the last 12 months, you will need to attain SMS within that 12-month period if you want to be on the PPC register. If you have still not attained accreditation/SMS and more than 12 months has elapsed since your course, but you have no supervisees, you will not be placed on the register until you do have SMS.

There may also be some people practising as PPCs without accreditation/SMS. The board is yet to finalise what steps to take in such cases. The probability is that if this is your situation, you will be required to attain SMS within a specific period of time in order to retain PPC status.

We do need all of you respond please, even if you are an FMA trained PPC without accreditation/SMS. Sending the evidence may seem a nuisance but, in the coming years, it is a fair bet that we will all need to prove the various qualifications that we have to outside agencies, so making sure that we have all the various pieces of paper now is a useful exercise. In LSC practices such documentation should be in the individual training files.

I feel sure that you will understand that it is important to ensure that PPCs who are assisting their supervisees to develop their practices themselves meet the standards required of them by their own professional bodies.


Anne Braithwaite


PPC Network

PPCs know that their role is increasingly viewed as crucial in the maintenance and development of mediation standards at this time, when regulation of our profession is coming ever closer. In recognition of that fact, the FMC is currently developing a code of practice for all the PPCs of the member organizations.

There will – and should be – debate in the coming months and years about just how realistic or fair it is to impose high levels of responsibility for policing standards on PPCs, particularly as the fee level for the work does not reflect its importance. The pivotal importance of the PPC role is one of the reasons that the FMA board has been thinking about how to increase the support it provides to its PPCs.

We also believe that a regionally based network can in turn strengthen the FMA itself. We are a member association. As such we will develop and flourish best in these exciting times if the board can establish a means of drawing on the experience and knowledge of all of the grass roots membership, whilst at the same time using an effective network as a means of communication between the board and the membership. Other member organisations have regional groups that work well.

I know that you will have heard from time to time over the last year about the board’s plans for a PPC regional network and that you could be forgiven for wondering when anything will actually happen. The reality is that there are many issues that have to be addressed, which we have to deal with in the limited time available to us as working mediators ourselves.

We are now already well on the way to establishing effective mechanisms for governance of the association. We have established a good comprehensive training programme for this year – and please help us to help FMA by doing your CPD through us if at all possible. With the huge assistance of Philippa Johnson, we have got the newsletter back up and published regularly again. We are almost there on a new complaints procedure and we are tackling the requirements of audit.

We hope very soon actually to start setting up the PPC network. The idea is that it will be run by you, the PPCs, on a regional basis so that you will have a forum within FMA for liaising with your fellow PPCs and discussing issues which in turn can be fed back to us on the board. We do hope that those of you who will be approached to help in establishing the networks at local level will embrace the concept with enthusiasm as a good way of helping your own professional practice, while at the same time helping FMA to grow even stronger from its roots up. We hope as well that it will be a network which will help to make all of our PPCs feel supported and appreciated in their vital role within the mediation community.

Anne Braithwaite


Where will your CPD points come from this year?

As you know, every year you need to collect 10 CPD points to remain a member of the FMA (or any of the other recognised family mediation organisations). Last year a significant number of FMA members found themselves hunting for CPD courses in the last few months (and even weeks!) of the year to make up their missing points. Of course the last minute course can be found, although you may have a slightly tense time searching for it, but only rarely will that last-minute course match your own training needs, fit in with your work schedule, and provide good value for money.

Let us help you to avoid a last minute panic – choose one of the following courses, each of which is designed to help you improve your mediation practice. Our courses are always presented by one or more well-known family mediators with excellent credentials, delivered to you in comfortable and convenient venues, and priced to give excellent value for money.

Make sure you get the right training. Book with the FMA now, and relax.

Annual Conference June 26

We hope all of you will be interested in attending the annual conference, which this year is being held in June, separate to the AGM. The conference speakers, who include Mr Justice Ryder, Lisa Parkinson, Judith Timms, David Allison, James Carroll and Haema Sundram, are all highly influential in the world of family law and family mediation; this is your opportunity not only to hear what they have to say, but also to ask them specific questions about the changes we are all going through, and to let them know what you think. We are expecting a very large turnout for this, the 25th anniversary conference, and it will provide an exceptional chance to renew old friendships and establish new links with fellow practitioners. All this, plus 5 CPD points, in a beautiful central London venue for only £162 for members who book before Friday 3 May. We don’t believe you will find better value for money this year! Register now!

APC Scheme

In addition we have training on the Assessment of Professional Competence Scheme coming up in London. This course is essential for all PPCs and for family mediators interested in preparing for the scheme. Remember that the McEldowney report recommended that all recognised family mediators should eventually be accredited, including those doing private work. It is already true that everyone who is approved to do MIAMs is required to meet this standard within 2 years of completing the MIAMs training. The course is presented by Dominic Raeside, a charismatic and authoritative speaker; as the internal verifier of the APC scheme, he is in a unique position to brief attendees on the APC scheme and the move towards a common standard. Register now!

FMA Law and Practice Update Days 2013

We are also offering Law and Practice Update Days. These are specifically designed to meet the needs of FMA members, and are delivered by Neil Robinson. Last year across the country, FMA members almost unanimously gave this course and trainer full marks for tutor knowledge, presentation and content. Most appreciated were “the exchange of ideas with the guidance and benefit of Neil’s experience, the mixture of discussions, reference to cases and precedent, and the chance to reflect and see links to new approaches.” Using materials prepared by Prof Chris Barton, FMA Vice President, as a framework, each course takes the form of a conversation about the things that matter most to you as practitioners. This year, for obvious reasons, the courses are focusing on the current upheavals, and specifically aim to equip mediators with the knowledge and resources to face the seismic changes in the delivery of family justice from April 2013 onwards. 

Leeds: Register now!
Bristol: Register now!
London: Register now!
Manchester: Register now!

MIAMs training
And finally, for those of you who have not yet completed your MIAMs training, we have a course running in Manchester on 18 April. Given the increasing emphasis on clients attending MIAMs before they issue applications, this work is rapidly becoming a key area for mediators, and can make a big difference to the viability of private practice. Train now, and make sure that you are added to the Ministry of Justice website. The course is going to be presented by Neil Robinson and Beverley Sayers, two of the most well regarded trainers in the mediation world. Register now!


Changes to the benefits system from April 2013 – is your area affected?

The government is trialling three new important changes to the benefits system in April. The three changes are (i) introduction of the much heralded Universal Credit, which replaces a number of the established means-tested benefits, (ii) introduction of the equally well heralded Benefits Cap, which will limit the total amount that any individual/family is entitled to receive, and (iii) introduction of the less well-known Personal Independence Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance. Just to complicate eligibility and income issues a little further, each change is being trialled in a different area.

The new edition of At a Glance, due out shortly, explains more about all three, but if you would like to know whether your area is affected and more about the rolling out of all three changes nationally, click here for the rest of the article.


Fault Divorce.

When John Cornwell accepted his award from Family Law for his outstanding contribution to the field of family law last October, he spoke, among other things, of the problems created by requiring so many divorcing couples to attribute blame for the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage, noting, in the context of his early days in the profession: ‘If somebody had asked me if we'd still be writing idiotic behaviour petitions because we still had fault divorce in 2012, I would have thought they were mad. In 1996 Parliament actually managed to approve no-fault divorce but still, for reasons lost in the mists of time, we haven't got it yet. Please in the next ten to fifteen years let us achieve that."

Just after John’s death last month, two cases concerning divorce petitions received widespread publicity. Between them, the cases illustrate the sort of idiocy he was talking about, and also point to the dreadful emotional impact of receiving a petition from your spouse setting out the various ways in which you are at fault for destroying the marriage. If you would like to read the details, click here for the full article.

Philippa Johnson


Letter from the Newsletter Editor

It occurred to me that, as most of you will have no idea who I am, at least some of you may have been wondering what qualifications I might have for presenting you with a monthly newsletter. So, in this third issue, with the Board and the Chair safely introduced, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself.

I am a relatively new member of the FMA, having finished my training with Beverley Sayers and Neil Robinson almost exactly a year ago. Throughout the course and in those first difficult months both of them gave me tremendous support and encouragement, like so many trainees before me. So when they and my PPC, herself a former Board member, suggested that the FMA needed help from new members as well as old, I decided to stand for election to the Board. I was very aware, looking at the biographies of the other candidates, that I was unlikely to make the cut, but this was one way to acknowledge all the help I had received from senior members of the FMA.

I was not at all surprised to discover that I had not been elected, but while I was still consoling myself with the prospect of various terribly important things I would now be able to do (almost certainly in reality I would have found myself doing fresh research into the perfect recipe for peanut butter cake while listening to the Archers), Beverley rang me to ask if I would become the FMA’s newsletter editor. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it quite difficult to say no to a request from Beverley, and I was certainly not up to the challenge on this occasion, so I set about creating the January newsletter. I have throughout had tremendous support from the Board, who have been steadily supplying me with advice, ideas and, most important of all, well-written articles on important subjects.

This isn’t the first newsletter I have been involved with, or even the first I have had to launch (or relaunch), but it is the first newsletter I have created for mediators, so please bear with me while I try to get it right. I am genuinely anxious to know what you think of the newsletter, and to find out what changes you would like me to make. I would also be very interested to hear from you with possible articles or topics for discussion – I can’t expect the Board to keep me supplied forever, and this is, after all, your newsletter.

If you would like to check my credentials, such as they are, click here for a short biography, but probably all you need to know is that Beverley almost certainly identified me as a possible newsletter editor because I have worked in publishing, largely in legal publishing, all my professional life. (Some of you may not be convinced that this is sufficient qualification, and you may be right, but I suspect that another, decisive, factor was that she knew I would probably say yes.)

I was lucky enough to be starting my publishing career just as the web and digital media were taking off, and because I have had plenty of experience both in planning and managing websites, the Board has also asked me to look at ways in which we can improve the FMA’s website. Having met with NNE this month, I have a number of suggestions, and will be making a presentation on this subject at the next Board meeting in April. Again, any suggestions or comments would be very welcome, and I will pass anything you send me onto the Board, which is determined to build a better communications network.

After the embarrassment last month of attaching the wrong document to the link advertising the new Legal Aid Agency form, I consoled myself with the thought that, at the very least, the almost immediate responses we received pointing out my error showed that people were reading what we were sending out. You may feel that I am rather easily consoled, but trust me, the real fear of anyone engaged in preparing information for a busy audience is that it won’t get read. So, just in case anyone did read our trailer in the March issue for an article this month on post MIAMs compliance, I must apologise that it is not included in this issue – it is a casualty of the extraordinary wave of work (the tsunami) this month generated by the legal aid changes. It will be in next month’s issue.

Please do let me know what you think, whatever that may be; you can contact me via email. I can’t promise to provide with what you really need from a newsletter, but I can promise to try.

Philippa Johnson


News Bites

Legal Aid Changes

Members of the Board have been in communication with Terry Davies of the Legal Services Commission regarding the proposed changes. We and he realise that many of you will have queries. As Terry will not have the time to respond to individual questions, a co-ordinated approach would be more effective in obtaining answers.  Please forward your questions to Sue West who will then liaise with Terry.

Legal Ombudsman reports on divorce-related legal complaints

The Legal Ombudsman has produced a report called ‘The price of separation: Divorce related legal complaints and their causes’ which makes very interesting reading. They have also published a new fact sheet to help consumers, and have republished their costs guides for lawyers. All of these can be found at the ombudsman’s website. Although the report does not mention mediation (which is outside the Ombudsman’s remit), it contains some information you may find helpful, and the consumer guide in particular may be worth passing on to clients.

In summary, family law accounted for about 18% of the 7,500 complaints handled by the Legal Ombudsman in 2011-12, generating more complaints than any other single area of law. This supports recent BDRC market research which found that dissatisfaction levels in divorce cases are higher than other areas of law (13% compared to the average of 7%). The main thing people complain about, predictably enough, is cost. The Legal Ombudsman’s report suggests that one of the reasons that costs spiral out of control in divorce cases is that many of those going through divorce proceedings are emotionally raw; loneliness and high emotions may lead many people to become inflexible, or indecisive, during the divorce process, and to rely heavily on their lawyer as their only source of support.

The Ombudsman identifies some ways in which those going through the divorce process can reduce costs, in particular, keeping emotions in check and taking an objective approach, setting realistic objectives at the start of a case, keeping tabs on how much is being spent as the case progresses, and thinking carefully about what work they are committing themselves to paying for. Clients may find all this very useful if they do need to use lawyers at some stage, and might also get some useful hints from the guidelines provided for lawyers about keeping costs down, including, for example, the importance of providing clients with proper estimates and regular updates.

Co-operative Legal Services publishes survey of divorced people

A survey produced for Co-operative Legal Services by Onepoll, questioning 800 divorced people online, suggests that just under a quarter of them had tried to hide some of their assets from their partners during the process (more women said they had done this than men, although that may merely mean that the women were more prepared to admit to it). The survey was not nationally representative, but did include some interesting responses. Apparently one in seven of those questioned explained that revenge was their main objective in the divorce, while one in five of those questioned felt that their solicitor had increased fees unnecessarily.

Click here to read the press release.

The Telegraph reports on quantity of undervalued pensions

The Telegraph article is about a report by Divorce LifeLine, a specialist financial advice firm, which suggests that as many as half of the 1.5 million divorce settlements in the UK since December 2000 have involved undervalued pension entitlements. David Salter comments in Family Law Week that while there is or may be a problem with offsetting of pension provision, because there is no set formula, the greater problem is that of the court’s reliance on the CETV (cash equivalent transfer value), which often is not an adequate indicator of true value. The coverage focuses on the importance of pensions in divorces going through the courts, but the report itself is yet another reminder of the importance of pensions in mediations as well.

Click here for the full Telegraph article.

Click here for the Family Law Week commentary.


Cases Update

Here are another three cases that may be of interest to mediators; all of them are examples of the court dealing with parental conflict after one of the parents has decided to move the child to a new home in England and Wales. Two of the cases involve shared care arrangements, while one involves a short-term change of residence until the court could resolve the dispute. We hope that you find them at least thought provoking – we are very keen to know what you think, so please do let us know, especially if any of them remind you of issues you have come across in practice.

Changing a child’s residence because of problems with shared residence, including moving house without informing the other parent – Re C (A Child) [2013]

Allowing relocation within England despite a shared care arrangement – Re S [2012]

Changing a child’s residence on an interim basis until the court could decide whether the mother’s relocation to a different area was in the child’s best interests – Re H (A Child) [2012]




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