More £500 mediation vouchers for separating couples
The government has invested an extra £800,000 into the scheme following its £1m launch in March. The cash means almost 2,000 extra families will get financial help towards cost of mediation without a means test.
The scheme provides separating couples with a £500 voucher for mediation services with the aim of finding amicable solutions to disagreements about children and money while freeing up space in the family courts.
It seeks to spare families the trauma of going through often lengthy and costly courtroom battles, which can have a damaging impact on children. Normally each mediation session is charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.
Hundreds of people have already accessed this support since March with about 130 vouchers currently being used every week.
Data from the Family Mediation Council (FMC), who run the programme, has shown that up to three-quarters of participants have been helped to reach full or partial agreement on their dispute.
Lord Wolfson QC, courts minister, said: “Hundreds of separating couples have already benefitted from this scheme – resolving their disputes without the need for an often lengthy, costly and emotionally taxing court process.
“This additional funding will allow even more families to access these services, while helping to lessen the pressure on our family courts as we build back better from the pandemic.”
What is mediation?
Mediation is often a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes, which can spare families the stress of attending court and the impact this can have on children.
It involves couples working through their differences – led by a trained and accredited mediator – to reach agreements they are both prepared to accept, such as how to split assets or arranging child contact times, rather than have a judge decide for them. They can then ask a court to consider their agreement and make it into a legally binding and enforceable court order.
Jane Kerr, an FMC accredited mediator, said: “The mediation voucher scheme has been invaluable in providing clients with access to mediation at a time when money is tight and finances are feeling fraught. I have worked with several couples who were interested in the benefits mediation offered, however were not financially in a position to get started.
“Two cases I have worked on over the last few months have concluded successfully with positive progress and outcomes for their children. They were clear examples of families who were in crisis, amid messy separations and who left mediation on a firmer footing with regards to their co-parenting relationship and having worked out practical arrangements.”
The scheme is eligible for families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children – for example, child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding a child’s upbringing.
If a case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator will automatically claim back the contributions from the government.
The move forms part of recent action by the government to help reduce family conflict, including introducing new laws to spare divorcing couples the need to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage.