Impartial view

The Divorce Mediation and Arbitration Centre (DMAC) is a new concept in the provision of mediation services. It is the commercial centre of the newly formed Institute of Family Mediation and Arbitration which will train mediators and arbitrators who are barristers and solicitors with at least 10 years' experience in family law. Those who complete the training may be selected for the DMAC panels of mediators and arbitrators.

The objective of the centre is to provide the most extensive training available in the UK by experienced trainers of international repute to achieve a high level of service. Lawyers accepted for mediation training will be acknowledged specialists of many years' standing. DMAC will be training lawyers to sit as sole mediators and sole arbitrators.

When DMAC panels of mediators have been set up, the centre will take referrals of clients wanting 'out of court' means to resolve their cases. The referrals will be from solicitors and barristers only. Clients will, therefore, have the benefit of advice from their retained solicitors and barristers acting for them at all stages,

including in the mediation process for resolving their case, if they wish. It also follows that the mediation will take place only when the solicitors advise the clients that the case is ready and after all pre-trial procedures, including full disclosure, have been completed.

John Haynes from New York, who has trained more than 10,000 professionals in mediation and is renowned for his expertise in this area, recently conducted the DMAC training session. Part of the course concentrates on arbitration with contributions from Arthur Marriott, author of 'ADR Principles and Practice' and Hillary Lewis-Ruttley, a joint director of studies at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, whose particular interests are family law and arbitration. A further session is planned for September.

Haynes' new book 'The Fundamentals of Family Mediation' contains a clear message about the crucial part that infrastructure plays in the quality of the service delivered in mediation. The perception by the clients entering mediation, the surroundings in which the mediation is conducted and the integrity of the mediator are very important in leading to a successful mediated settlement.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement by mediation, it is intended that DMAC will arrange for an arbitrator to be appointed by the consent of the parties and their legal advisers. When the parties move from mediation to arbitration they change the method of resolving their dispute from that of a mediator helping them to reach a decision themselves to that of an arbitrator reaching a decision for them based on the facts and arguments put to the arbitrator by each party. Even if the mediation breaks down, therefore, there will be another alternative to help the parties resolve their dispute without the need for litigation.

And DMAC's alternative dispute resolution training programme will encapsulate both mediation and arbitration practice. This will cover the introduction of the parties to DMAC through their legal representatives with DMAC monitoring the progress of the parties to the successful resolution of their dispute.

Caroline Willbourne is a family law barrister at 1 Garden Court, Temple.