Figures reveal high dependency on NI courts to resolve child custody issues

By Lenore Rice

There were over 10,000 child contact and residence orders submitted to Northern Ireland Courts over the past 3 judicial years, prompting calls for increased promotion of mediation for separating families.

Detail Data carried out an analysis of family court rulings, and in particular looked at statistics relating to Children Orders made from September 2012 to August 2015. Children Orders are ruled on by judges only, behind closed doors, and set out which parent the child or children should live with, and the conditions for any contact they will have with the non-resident parent.

The research showed that 10,206 contact and residence orders had been made in that period, which dwarfs the number of families In Northern Ireland turning to mediation following a divorce or separation to resolve disputes in respect of child residence and contact issues. The largest provider of mediation to families who have chosen not to go directly to court, Family Mediation NI, by comparison dealt with just 750 family agreements over the same period.

Joan Davis of Family Mediation NI says that Northern Ireland needs to follow the path of other European countries were mediation is the "default first option in family breakdown".

If you require legal advice in respect of a divorce, children order or any other residence or contact issue, contact one of the family law solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by calling 0800 840 1363.