PUP representative Jonathan Cooke recently called for an early intervention pilot scheme to be introduced to family court proceedings at the PUP conference.
His proposal passed and will become party policy.
He said: “Early intervention compliments and underpins mediation as it gives mediators and parents up-front what they can expect when their circumstances are taken to court. The scheme would reduce the number of families appearing in court through separation by an estimated 75 per cent, freeing the courts up to deal with the more complex cases more efficiently. This will ensure the child/parent bond will not unnecessarily be broken in the wake of separation. These cases are often long drawn out affairs and create parental alienation, negatively impacting the mental wellbeing of family members. Many jurisdictions use mediation, not the courts system as the default option in family breakdown. Once more, here in NI we’ve to play catch up with existing policy.”
He added: “Early intervention operates within current law. It provides the statutory interpretation and consistency that is currently lacking. EI has been validated by the judiciary and Parliament since 2004 and has been positivity received this far with policy makers at Stormont, including in 2010 when the then Minister for Justice spoke about finding an alternative aimed at diverting parents away from the courts system. This isn’t a call for every instance to bypass court, the court system is required for certain cases. This is a call for mediation as a first port of call where parents will be made aware of the likely outcome of any court case, thus freeing the court to deal with more complex cases in a more efficient manner.