Investment has been given to a meditation scheme designed to help estrange families settle disputes around financial matters and child contact.
The funding has been announced to help divert private law cases from court and enable families to settle disputes out of court. The mediation scheme was launched in March last year and the £1.3m investment will take funding of the scheme to more than £3m.
The scheme has already issued 4,400 family mediation vouchers to help resolve disputes such as those involving financial or contact arrangements for children. The additional funding will enable 2,440 additional vouchers for mediation services each worth £500 to be distributed with the aim of finding amicable solutions to couples’ disagreements and freeing up space in the family courts. It seeks to spare them going through often lengthy and costly courtroom battles, which can have a damaging impact on their children.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “I want to see children and their parents spared the stress and conflict of the courtroom as much as possible, and I’m delighted that thousands more will now have the opportunity to resolve their disputes in less combative way.
“At the same time, it will free up vital capacity in the family courts to ensure the system can recover quickly from the pandemic,” he added.
Family mediation is a process in which an independent, professionally trained mediator helps parties work out arrangements for children and finances where there is a dispute. The mediator is not there to tell each side what to do, but can help them reach an agreement while trying to improve communication between them. They aren’t there to try and keep couples together but help them find a practical way forward after a relationship has broken down.
Of the first 2,000 cases using the vouchers, more than three-quarters (77 percent) reached either a whole or partial agreement outside of court, according to initial research from the Family Mediation Council (FMC), who run the scheme. Nearly half (49 percent) say they would not have considered mediation if the voucher had not been on offer.
The government has invested just short of £3.3m into the scheme, following the initial £1m at launch and an additional £800k in August. The extra money will allow the initiative to run until the end of March.
If a case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator will automatically claim back the contributions from government.