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Chancellor announces £55m for legal advice in family disputes

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced that the government will be providing £55m to help families settle disputes without the cost and stress of having to go to court.

Announcing the move in his budget speech, Mr Hunt said: “Too many legal cases, particularly in family law, should never go to court and it would cost us less if they didn’t. So, we will spend £170m to fund non-court resolution, reduce reoffending and digitise the court process.”

The Treasury’s explanatory budget document said: “This includes £55 million for the Family Courts to offer online targeted guidance and earlier legal advice, shortening wait times and supporting families through non-court dispute resolution.

“The government will introduce a new online information and guidance tool to support earlier resolution of family disputes and divert cases away from the family courts, where appropriate. The tool will help families navigate the range of options available by suggesting suitable interventions based on need and provide early legal advice.”

The government hasn’t yet published details of how the scheme will work but speaking in February, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said they wanted a multi-strand approach including providing both early legal advice and mediation to resolve disputes quickly.

The main aim is to protect thousands of children from the long-term harm of lengthy, combative courtroom conflict.

Mr Chalk stressed the importance of mediation to enable families to reach an amicable resolution that works for all concerned. “Mediators can work with both parties together or separately to find a solution that works for them, rather than have a solution imposed on them by a judge.”

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact us if you would like more information about mediation and early dispute resolution, or any aspect of family law.