The government is providing an extra £5.4 million to help families resolve disputes such as contact arrangements through mediation instead of going to court.
Under the scheme, mediation vouchers worth £500 are provided to divorcing couples with the aim of helping them find mutually agreeable solutions and freeing up space in the family courts.
It seeks to spare parents and their children the anxiety and cost of often lengthy and acrimonious courtroom disputes.
The scheme has seen around two-thirds of cases reaching full or partial agreements away from court.
The extra funding more than doubles the investment in the initiative since its launch in March last year, which now totals £8.7 million.
It will provide around 10,200 additional vouchers for mediation services – adding to the 8,400 which have been issued so far.
Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said: “Mediation protects children, by removing the bitterness of parental disputes from the amplifying effect of a courtroom – and allows the family courts to focus on adjudicating cases with serious safeguarding concerns, including domestic abuse.”
Mediation scheme a success
Preliminary research from the Family Mediation Council (FMC), which runs the scheme, showed that 50% of participants would not have attempted mediation without the financial incentive offered by the scheme.
Without the vouchers, mediation sessions would normally be charged unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.
If a case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator will automatically claim back the contributions from the FMC. The vouchers are not only for married/ divorcing couples but for unmarried parents too. Also, the scheme is only eligible for cases that have children issues involved.
Agreements made through mediation can be made legally binding by a court if necessary and the legal support to do this can be offered.
The new investment will extend the initiative to March 2023.
The Family team at OGR Stock Denton offers an excellent range of Out-of-Court solutions including mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.