Settlement Conferences piloted in children cases

The Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) has announced that some Designated Family Judge areas are piloting ‘settlement conferences’ in cases concerning arrangements for children. In a settlement conference, a family judge adopts an inquisitorial approach in order to encourage cooperation between the parties, with a view to helping them identify solutions and reaching an agreement that is in their children’s best interests.

Settlement conferences take place with the consent of all the parties. The judge hearing a settlement conference will be different to the judge that may hear the final hearing. They will be specially trained in facilitating settlement conferences.

The judge will not impose any duress or pressure on any parties. Settlement implies that all parties will be in agreement to fully resolve some or all issues. If they are able to reach an agreement on all issues the case will end and a court order will be drafted reflecting the agreement. The judge cannot make any orders without the agreement of the parents or carers.

The pilot actually began in June 2016, and will last until the MoJ  has collected sufficient information on the approach to inform a decision on the future of the pilot.

Family Law Cafe fully supports any initiatives designed to help parents resolve disputes over arrangements for their children, and looks forward with interest to the evaluation of the pilot.

Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Image: Ministry of Justice Plaque, by Simon Gibson, licensed under CC BY 2.0.