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Sunday
Jul092017

England and Wales family courts pilot for 'settlement conferences'.

President of the Family Division in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, has given the green light to a number of family courts to pilot 'settlement conferences'.

The aim is to discover whether pursuing a less adversarial approach to resolving disputes between separated parents might lead to better outcomes for the children involved.

In a statement released by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Sir James said, "Some Designated Family Judge (DFJ) areas are piloting settlement conferences. In a settlement conference, a trained family judge adopts an inquisitorial approach in order to encourage cooperation between parties with a view to reaching an agreement that is in the children’s best interests. I know that opinions on settlement conferences are divided but, in my view, it is an approach that is worth piloting in order to inform decisions on whether to take them further."

The pilot is supported by a package of training and guidance materials that Sir James urges judges to view before taking part in the pilot. The package includes videos, sample cases and practice directions.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, said, "We'll be watching the pilot and any subsequent evaluation very carefully. We have been saying for a long time that the adversarial procedures in Scottish family cases - including the pre court correspondence between solicitors - often create new conflicts between parents. It can make it more difficult for parents to co-operate in the interests of their children after the case is closed if the process itself has encouraged them to attack each other's character and parenting abilities."

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