A leading York family law solicitor and mediators have welcomed major changes to divorce and child care proceedings that came into effect earlier this week.

Before Easter, three different courts handled the legal part of family break-ups. Now the new Family Court will deal with all the work that previously went to the other three courts.

It will also be compulsory for couples to take part in mediation before going to a court to resolve their differences.

Mark Day, of Langleys Solicitors of York, supported the new system, which includes a 26-week time limit for care proceedings, because it hopes it will reduce delays and improve efficiency . But he was cautious about the mediation change.

“As a mediator and collaborative lawyer I also support the idea of alternative dispute resolution," he said. "It is without doubt a positive way for couples going through a separation to try to reduce conflict and achieve a constructive solution.

“What does concern me however is the notion of mediation as a compulsory step, as the best results are achieved with couples who work within that process on a voluntary and mutual basis.

“That said, there is no doubt that these reforms do indeed represent a revolutionary change to the system, and their core message of keeping families away from the negative effects of Court battles is surely a positive step.”

Jane Robey, chief executive of the National Family Mediation network which includes York Family Mediation Service, also welcomed the changes.

She said mediation was a quicker, easier and less confrontational way to deal with property, finance and child custody and access.

"Now all couples will have to explore it properly," she said. "But this shouldn't be seen as an unwelcome imposition. Approaching mediation with open eyes and an open mind really can make a positive difference to the quality of life of everyone involved, especially children."