Jonathan Djanogly on divorce and mediation
- 4 November 2011
- From the section England
Divorce has always been a messy business but the Justice Minister and MP for Huntingdon Jonathan Djanogly has been trying to make it a little less painful.
In April this year he introduced a new law which requires all couples who are splitting up to consider mediation rather than the courts.
"It's something I have personally been pushing hard as a minister for the last year," he tells us, adding that the new policy seems to be working.
"There's been a 20% uptake in mediation and we know that of those who go through publicly funded mediation, 70% will have a successful outcome."
"It's a cheaper process - one that takes a fifth of the time of going to court and it's much less contentious.
"When children are involved that must be better for all parties concerned."
This week the minister went to Ipswich to meet with mediators and some of those who have successfully used the new service.
Rather than leave it to their lawyers to decide things like access to children and division of property, they meet face-to-face with a mediator and work things out.
Normally it will take three or four meetings and a bill of £500 - far quicker and cheaper than if it went to court.
"90% of people sort out their own problems, but 10% of people go to court," says Mr Djanogly.
"We think less of them should be going to court and more of them taking their own lives into their own hands, and mediation is a way of facilitating that."
Mr Djanogly accepts that mediation isn't the answer for every divorcing couple which is why the law insists that couples are only assessed for mediation.
In some cases, such as those involving domestic violence, the courts are still the best way forward.
The Citizens Advice Bureau also warns that in some cases there's no substitute for proper legal advice.
Mr Djanogly's visit to Ipswich comes at the end of a difficult month for the Cambridgeshire MP.
He's once again been the subject of controversial headlines and had to answer allegations about perceived conflicts of interest between his job and his family's business interests.
It is worth recording that he was investigated by the Cabinet Secretary and cleared of any wrongdoing.
He will only say that the allegations were an attempt by the Labour Party to undermine the government's attempts to end the compensation culture.
"When you're a minister you have to realise that people are going to attack you.
"The important thing is that you stick to your guns and deliver on your manifesto commitments."