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NEARLY half the people currently seeking divorce would feel uncomfortable going through mediation and almost nine out of every 10 want to be represented by a solicitor, a comprehensive survey revealed this week.
The Solicitors' Family Law Association research is believed to be the first to test clients' response to the Government's White Paper proposals.
Family law practitioners say the poll of more than 1,100 divorce clients supports their objections - formalised in a response to the White Paper published alongside the results.
They believe the Lord Chancellor may be pressuring couples whose marriage is beyond redemption into pointless mediation, while trying to force solicitors out of the divorce process.
SFLA chair Nigel Shepherd said: "This survey shows us that mediation will only be
appropriate for a minority of people, probably about 30-40 per cent."
He added: "Whether or not mediation is used, divorce is and will remain, a legal process and access to independent legal advice is essential."
The SFLA response came less than one week after the Lord Chancellor defended the reforms at the launch of Marriage Care, formerly the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.
However, Hilary Siddle, chair of the Law Society family law committee, said: "He continues to confuse mediation with reconciliation. Mediation is simply a different way of resolving disputes following the break-up of a marriage."
Key findings of the research conducted over the past four months were:
77 per cent said if they did go through mediation that they would like a solicitor's guidance throughout.
48 per cent would feel uncomfortable with undergoing mediation.
Less than a third felt a mediator could help resolve differences amicably.
29 per cent would prefer to deal with a lawyer.
26 per cent worried they would not get a fair deal without a legal adviser.
The SFLA said it supported mediation in principle and welcomed plans for a 12-month "cooling off" period. However, it said mediation was only appropriate in a minority of cases.