Million-pound mediation scheme
- AuthorClaudia Hubert
Separating parents will be assisted to resolve disputes through a new million-pound mediation scheme that was launched by the Government on 26 March 2021.
Under the new time-limited scheme, approximately 2,000 families will be able to apply for a one-off £500 voucher towards the cost of mediation, which is usually charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a process involving an independent, professionally trained mediator who helps you work out arrangements with another participant, such as an ex-partner, where there is a dispute.
Mediation can often be a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes. It involves couples working through their differences to reach agreements rather than have a judge decide for them. The couples can then ask a Court to consider their agreement and make it into a legally binding and enforceable Court Order.
When you make an application for a Court Order in relation to many types of family law disputes, you must show the Court that you have considered family mediation, by having attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless you are exempt. A MIAM is a short meeting with a qualified mediator where you will be provided with information about mediation as a way of resolving your issues. The mediator will assess whether mediation is an appropriate option based on your individual circumstances.
How does the mediation scheme work?
At your MIAM, the mediator will assess the issues which you seek to resolve to see if you are eligible. If your case is eligible, the mediator will discuss the voucher scheme with you. The mediation voucher cannot be used to pay for a MIAM and is restricted to assisting with funding the mediation sessions only.
If you decide to proceed with mediation, and are eligible for the voucher, your mediator will apply for the voucher funding and it will be paid directly to them once all mediation sessions are concluded. You will not need to make an application for the voucher.
The vouchers are limited in number and will only be offered to eligible parties until they are no longer available.
Who is eligible for the mediation voucher scheme?
The scheme is available for families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children. There is no financial eligibility test.
Also, both parties must have attended a MIAM on or after 26 March 2021 to be eligible for the scheme.
Why has the mediation scheme been introduced?
The scheme is intended to ensure mediation is accessible for separating couples and to support them outside of the Court system. The Ministry of Justice says that research suggests more than 70% of couples using mediation services resolved their issues outside of the courtroom.
It is hoped that the scheme will also help to alleviate pressures on the Family Courts arising from the pandemic, by redirecting cases more appropriate for mediation away from the Courts.
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