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The main advantage of using mediation instead of the court process is that it helps to avoid some of the hurt and anger that is inevitable when trying to settle such emotive issues in court. In addition, when an arrangement is reached by mutual consent rather than being imposed, it is more likely that both parties will honour it. Refusal to attend mediation may also have costs consequences for the party concerned. The disadvantage of mediation is that it can be quite stressful for both parties to have to meet regularly.
Within about three to six months a further hearing will be arranged by the judge to explain the decision. In making its decision the court will consider, first and foremost, what is in the best interests of the child. Where the child is mature enough, their views will be heard and given appropriate weight. The decision will usually follow the recommendations of the welfare report.
In November 2013 the Government issued a paper called 'Supporting Separated Families - Securing Children's Futures', which led to the Children and Families Act 2014, which came into force in April 2014. This is aimed at speeding up the process of dealing with the future of the children of divorced parents. It introduced the 'Child arrangement order' to replace the 'residence' and 'contact' orders used previously.
Recently a number of cases involving parents of different nationalities have come to court, with one partner seeking to take the children abroad or a long distance away within the UK. The decisions reiterate the principle that the prime consideration is the welfare of the children.
More recently a child maintenance calculator has been placed on the Government website to help people calculate the likely child maintenance payable.
It is likely that where there is a European element to the family situation, child maintenance arrangements will change after Brexit. Watch this space.