Changes to the Family Procedure Rules introduced at the end of April have been adopted to encourage individuals to utilise alternative means to resolve Family Law disputes, rather than litigating through the courts.

Charlotte Hirst, a paralegal at Staffordshire Family Law Solicitors explains:

“For some time, there has been a requirement on people to attend a “Mediation Information Assessment Meeting” (known as a MIAM) prior to issuing an application to the court, to consider whether mediation would be appropriate. However, the new rules focus on “Non- Court Dispute Resolutions”  (referred to as NCDR)  which encompasses a variety of  methods of resolving matters away from court such as arbitration, evaluation by third party, and round table meetings. The reason behind the introduction of these rules is to try, where possible, to steer parties away from court applications, and to resolve matters in a more conciliatory way” .


The new rules specifically target cases concerning financial disputes arising from divorce and disagreements over private child arrangements.


Key information about the changes:

  • The term “domestic violence”, which provides an exemption from the requirement to engage in NCDR, has been widened to “domestic abuse” so as to include other forms of abuse such as emotional, financial, psychological and coercive and controlling behaviour.
  • Some of the other previous exemptions to the parties having to attend a MIAM have now been removed.
  • A new Form will need to be filed before the first court hearing takes place to confirm whether NCDR has taken place and whether it is deemed suitable.
  • The court will scrutinise the parties’ attempts to mediate far more than before, meaning that there will be more of a focus as to whether there has been an appropriate attempt at NCDR methods.
  • There will be fewer accepted reasons for not attending NCDR.
  • The independent mediator conducting the MIAM will need to explain, and encourage parties to consider, all forms of NCDR, rather than just mediation.
  • The procedure relating to MIAMs will be started earlier in the application process.
  • The court have a duty to encourage parties to consider suitable forms of NCDR at all stages of proceedings, particularly in-between hearings. The court have the discretion to adjourn hearings to allow for NCDR to be attended.


Charlotte believes these changes will affect how family matters are progressed in the future – “as a result of the changes introduced, judges will look more closely during court proceedings at the parties’ respective efforts to resolve matters outside of court, with strong consideration given as to whether the dispute could be resolved by alternative methods”. However, Charlotte warns “although NCDR can be a really positive way of resolving family disputes without incurring the legal costs of litigation, whilst minimising stress and the hostility the parties feel towards each other, it should be used in conjunction with good legal advice. A family law practitioner will be able to guide you through the process and on any agreement discussed at NCDR, as well as what the outcome might be if those methods of resolution unfortunately fail.”

If you require advice on a family law issue or further information on the Non-Court Dispute Resolution methods that would be available to you, please contact us on 01785 336617 or via email on [email protected].