Right of Reply: Sheena Adam

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The Independent Culture
The chief executive of the pressure group National Family Mediation responds to an article by our legal correspondent on mediation in disputes between couples

The Independent's front page article by Robert Verkaik ("Couples log on to the Internet to log off from their marriages") gives incorrect information about the role of mediation in the Government's proposed divorce reforms, thereby giving the wrong impression to people considering mediation.

First, it is not correct to say that mediation is "not working". This is a myth, based on misunderstanding of the role of pilot information meetings that were established under the Government's proposals.

These meetings were not held with the sole purpose of bringing large numbers of people into mediation. They were held simply to explain to 600 volunteers the choices before them should they wish to divorce or separate. About half the people who featured in the follow-up evaluation, on which the recent false criticism of mediation is often based, were not even planning to divorce, so mediation would not have been an option.

The truth on the ground - and we should know; NFM is the largest single provider of family mediation in the country - is that pilot projects are working extremely well. Sizeable numbers of couples are successfully entering into mediation and finding this the best way to make satisfactory arrangements for their children, finances and property.

Second, mediation is not "compulsory" under the Government's proposals. Indeed mediation works only if the parties enter into the process voluntarily. Where confusion may have arisen is that, under part of the Family Law Act, people seeking legal aid to help with legal representation are required to consider mediation as an option.

As your item was about an Internet site for parting couples, perhaps I should remind people of the address of our site - www.nfm.u-net.com

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