Edward Cooke speaks at the 10th Annual Johannesburg Family Law Conference

27 October 2023
Edward Cooke speaks at the 10th Annual Johannesburg Family Law Conference

Edward Cooke, Managing Director of Edward Cooke Family Law attended the 10th Annual Johannesburg Family Law Conference on 26 and 27 October 2023 where he spoke on the subject “40 years of development in the practice of Family Law in the UK and its international relevance”.

The conference, one of the two major conferences in the South African family law calendar, was attended by a wide range of delegates from the Gauteng Family Law Forum (an organisation representing family law professionals in the Gauteng area) and from across South Africa, including judges, advocates (barristers), attorneys (solicitors), academics and psychologists. The event was organised by Clarks Attorneys, the leading Johannesburg Family Law practice.

Highlighting developments in family law in the UK

Edward spoke about the way in which family law has developed over the last 40 years in the UK, picking that date in view of the recent 40-year anniversary of Resolution, the UK organisation of family law professionals.

Edward outlined to delegates how family practice has developed in the UK over that period, drawing parallels with developments in the UK over the years with what is happening in South Africa now. The Gauteng Family Law Forum is one of several family law organisations that has sprung up in recent years across South Africa to promote good practice and work on lobbying for change in the family law arena.

Edward’s talk focussed heavily on how in recent years in the UK there has been an expansion in the ways in which family law professionals resolve matters through non-court dispute resolution. Alongside traditional mediation, Edward explained how hybrid, solicitor-inclusive mediation has taken off very successfully in the UK;  particularly in the wake of the Covid pandemic, as a far more focussed and cost-effective way for couples to reach a financial settlement than through the overstretched court system.

Edward also addressed delegates on the successful development of Early Neutral Evaluation and Private FDRs in the UK – private hearings developed in recent years as a way of parties reaching an earlier agreement without the need for contested court proceedings. Edward also explained how arbitration, particularly in financial matters, has taken root in the UK. At present, the rules in South Africa prohibit the use of arbitration in South Africa for family cases.

Edward also explained how “One Couple, One Lawyer” services were now taking off in the UK particularly since the 2022 launch of Resolution’s “Resolution Together” training.

Edward was delighted to address delegates on these developments and was very pleased by the reaction of those who he spoke to.

Reflections on 10th Annual Johannesburg Family Law Conference 

Edward commented:

“I have had several really positive conversations with delegates, further to my presentation, as to how South African family law professionals may be able to develop non-court dispute resolution methods to better support their clients.

Professionals I spoke to at the conference reported many of the same problems that we face in the UK, such as an overburdened court system and some lawyers adopting overly adversarial approaches to resolving family issues. People I spoke to were accordingly excited to learn more about the methods we have developed in recent years in the UK to resolve issues more speedily, cost-effectively, and constructively."

I was particularly excited to talk to professionals who wish to develop Early Evaluation in family law matters in South Africa, and to mediators seeking to further develop their skills as Hybrid Mediators. It was great to meet so many professionals wishing to forge positive change in the family law system in South Africa, and I look forward to seeing how things develop in the near future. Delegates were also excited to learn more about how we are seeking to build more collaborative working in the UK, involving other professionals such as financial neutrals and family consultants”

Amongst other speakers at the two-day conference in Johannesburg were The Honourable Judge Margie Victor, a retired Johannesburg High Court Judge, The Honourable Deputy Judge President Roland Sutherland from the Johannesburg High Court, and a wide range of other speakers including lawyers, academics and psychologists addressing a spectrum of topical South African family justice issues.