Stressful court battles for families avoided through new mediation scheme

Deborah Marsh Deborah Marsh 06 April 2021

A new £1m Government mediation scheme aims to help separating parents avoid acrimonious and stressful court battles.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched the Mediation Voucher Scheme which will be run by the Family Mediation Council (FMC).

The scheme is eligible for families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children such as child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding a child’s upbringing.

Deborah Marsh, associate and collaborative lawyer at Wake Smith Solicitors, looks at the move.

“This is designed to lessen the pressures on the family courts brought about by the pandemic and provide a quicker, cheaper and less trying system for separating parents.

“Currently, funded mediation is available only for those who meet the financial requirements through the Legal Aid scheme. If you don’t qualify then you will need to pay for mediation sessions.

“The new scheme opens up the option of mediation to more families.

“Under the voucher scheme, around 2,000 families can apply for a £500 voucher towards mediation costs.

“If a case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator will automatically claim back the contributions from the government.”

The family courts system has been swamped by the pandemic so, as well as offering a quicker and cheaper way to resolve disputes, the Government hopes this new voucher system will also relieve some pressure.

Deborah added: “Cases better suited for mediation can be diverted away from the courts and families are spared attending court, which can often be traumatic for children.”

Mediation involves an accredited mediator working with couples to reach agreements, rather than having a judge decide often through an unnecessary and often acrimonious court process. Agreements are then signed off by a legally binding and enforceable court order which Wake Smith’s family solicitors can prepare.

According to research more than 70% of those using mediation resolve their issues away from the courts.

Another alternative to mediation and litigation in the courts is collaborative law, which Wake Smith also offers, used to resolve family disputes including arrangements about children, finances and other personal matters after separation or divorce.

Collaborative law is similar to mediation except that both parties have a solicitor present to represent and advise them during negotiations, all working collaboratively to try to find the best possible solutions for both parties and their children.

For further information on the new system and eligibility for vouchers, mediation and collaborative law solutions contact Deborah Marsh at [email protected] 

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