It has been announced by the Ministry of Justice that an additional £1.3 million will be given to the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, which aims to assist thousands of parents involved in disputes and in turn help to resolve family disputes without the need for the court room.
Such disputes could involve contact arrangements between parents and their children.The scheme officially launched in March 2021. Since then 4,400 vouchers have already been used with 77% of cases reaching full or partial agreements away from the family court.
Additional funding will provide 2,440 additional vouchers to access this medication scheme. The aim of the scheme is to resolve issues between couples without the use of the court. This is important as it avoids wasting the limited resources of the courts. Families will also avoid the costs of the court and the stress court proceedings can have. In turn, it is hoped this will be better for families and their children.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process which involves an independent trained mediator who helps parties come to agreement on issues in dispute. These issues can be financial or can involve the arrangements of a child. The mediator is independent, which means they do not take sides in the discussion. Their aim is to support each party and to hopefully help the parties reach an agreement. They can assist with the communication between the parties and try to focus the parties on reaching an agreed way forward. It is important to note that agreements made in mediation cannot be enforced on either party, but they can become legally binding by a court if needs be.
Benefits of mediation:
- Mediation is much cheaper than using the courts
- Matters can be resolved quicker as court proceedings can be very lengthy
- Mediation encourages couples to work through their differences and find common ground
- Mediation means you stay in control of the outcome. Unlike the court system, a judge will not be making any decisions. These will be for you to reach.
How to apply for a mediation voucher
Before making any court application for a family order you will be required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Here you will be informed about mediation and its use. It will be decided if mediation is appropriate for you. At the MIAM, a trained mediator will assess if you meet the eligibility requirements for the voucher scheme.
Cases which are eligible for a mediation voucher:
- A dispute/application regarding a child
- A dispute/application regarding family financial matters where you are also involved in a dispute/application relating to a child.
By Nicola Horrocks, paralegal in the family law team