Between five and ten per cent of separating parents resolve child access disputes through the courts. They are often unaware that mediation is available or wrongly assume it is only for couples wishing to reconcile.

The paper proposes making it compulsory for privately-funded clients to consider mediation before having residence and contact disputes heard in court. This is currently a requirement for legal aid clients. Extra support may be given to the Family Mediation Council to build on existing accreditation schemes for family mediators.

A review panel is to be appointed to hear from people with experience of the family justice system, and may issue calls for evidence, focus groups and formal consultation.