Couples planning to divorce must use mediation to resolve their disputes as a first step.
The new rules will be applicable from April and will require the person initiating the case to go first to a professional mediator who will arrange a meeting to explain the process to the couple.
Couples will be able to talk about their situation in a calm environment, discuss their problems and consider how to resolve them.
The National Audit Office figures on legally-aided mediation reveals that the average time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days, compared to 435 days for court cases on similar issues.
Furthermore, figures show that mediation costs less than going to court with statistics revealing that the average cost of mediation is £535 compared to £2823 for cases going to court.
However, according to Government minister Jonathan Djanogly, the new rules will not be imposed on everyone. “It won’t suit some people, who should be free to explore other avenues including court, or those in serious or dangerous circumstances, for example in cases of domestic violence or child protection.” These people would not be prevented from going straight to court, he said.
Both people have to opt for mediation but the mediator will have the discretion to assess if mediation is suitable or if there is a risk to either party’s safety.
The new rules, known as the Pre-application Protocol and Practice Direction will supplement the Family Proceedings Rules to come into effect on 6th April.