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Emma Hitchings research presented at the Family Justice Council Conference on 7 February

Dr Emma Hitchings

Press release issued: 13 February 2014

Research on the settlement of financial issues on divorce conducted by Emma Hitchings, (University of Bristol), Joanna Miles (University of Cambridge) and Hilary Woodward (Cardiff University) has been presented at the Family Justice Council Conference on 7 February.

The research project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the first in over a decade to examine the process for settling these cases, whether in or out of court, and so the first to consider the operation of court proceedings in financial cases on divorce since the nationwide rollout of a new procedural pathway in 2000.

Through analysis of court file data and interviews with family solicitors and mediators, all conducted prior to the legal aid reforms in 2013, the research report, Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle: understanding financial settlement on divorce, explores the "how", "when" and "why" of these cases:  How is settlement reached, in particular in terms of out of court dispute mechanisms used?  Where contested proceedings are launched but settled, when is settlement achieved in terms of the various stages along the procedural pathway?  And why is settlement achieved, delayed or (unusually) prevented?

The findings highlight the complementary roles of solicitors and mediators in achieving settlement out of court, the variety of non-legal as well as legal/procedural factors that can promote or hinder settlement, and the difficulties that may be experienced in cases involving litigants in person, who may become more prevalent following the removal of legal aid for lawyers’ services in financial cases (other than in support of mediation) from April 2013.

The full research report: Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle (2013) (PDF, 1,539kB) and an article summarising some of the key findings will be published in the March issue of Family Law.

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