A new £1 million mediation scheme designed to help separating couples avoid costly and stressful court battles has been introduced this week by the UK Government. The scheme is to be administered by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) on behalf of the MOJ.
Mediation is a proven method of dispute resolution, offering a cheaper and quicker route to resolving disputes outside of the courtroom which avoids the trauma of attending Court and reduces the impact on children from an acrimonious court process.
The new scheme invites up to 2000 families in the UK to apply for a voucher to the value of £500 which will go towards the cost of mediation services, provided for the first time from the government without the requirement of a means test.
Led by a trained mediator, couples accessing mediation can expect to be helped to work through their differences in order to reach agreements regarding their finances and childcare arrangements which each party are happy to accept, without the need for a judge to decide for them.
Research suggests that almost 3/4 of those using mediation services will resolve their issues outside of courtroom.
The new scheme is also designed to help alleviate the growing pressure on the family courts system caused by the pressures of the COVID pandemic, steering cases which are naturally more suited to mediation away from the courts.
The government hopes the voucher scheme will open up the benefits of mediation services to an even greater number of families, helping to avoid the unnecessary stress of long legal battles at a time when people are suffering under the pressures of the Pandemic.
The scheme will be eligible for families seeking to resolve financial matters or matters relating to children, for example child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding children’s upbringing.
Where the case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator can automatically claim the contributions back from the government.
The £1 million move forms part of a major overhaul of the family courts system announced last year by the government to help reduce family conflict and protect victims of domestic abuse, including an automatic entitlement for special measures in courtrooms and stronger powers for judges to prevent abusers repeatedly forcing their victims back to court.
Furthermore, The Divorce Act was granted Royal Assent in June 2020 which spares divorcing couples the requirement to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage. Overall there has been an investment of £76 million into the UK family court and tribunal systems to help boost capacity during the Coronavirus pandemic.