The Government seems to be more and more interested in how people get divorced, and how to make the process less damaging and less expensive – primarily for the taxpayer rather than for the individuals concerned. Courts are expensive institutions to operate – parties are encouraged to attend mediation before issuing any type of Court proceedings in relation to children or finances. There will be further legislation on this.
This coincides with changes to the legal profession again brought about by the Government introducing legislation which enables non-lawyers to come into the market. This is not so much Tesco law as the law of the Co-op. The Co-operative Society is moving into the provision of legal services in a big way. They have been doing so with their members for a number of years and making huge profits – now they are coming on to a high street near you, recruiting large numbers of probate lawyers and 3000 family lawyers. That may mean the end of some small high street firms as they obviously cannot compete with the organisational and management resources of the Co-op. Similarly the AA have a huge database/membership. They can offer legal insurance to their members and that will provide the money to cover the provision of legal services to members. It is ironic that the Government are removing Legal Aid for family work at a time of increased insurance provision to cover Road Traffic Accidents and possibly other areas of legal cost.
There are a lot of medium-size firms that are either amalgamating into something bigger or going under. As the owner of a small niche practice I watch these changes to a certain extent from the sidelines but the waves are certainly lapping at my feet. Although mediation was loudly trumpeted by the Government as a panacea, it has not proved to be and most people who go to Court do not have the benefit of proper advice with regard to mediation, or even see a mediator. This is going to change: it is going to be more and more difficult to make any sort of application in the family Courts without having attended a mediation session. Obviously you cannot compel people to mediate – there may be issues of not just domestic violence but intimidation of one party by the other, or just such a breakdown of communication that even the most skilled mediator cannot broker an agreement.