Under a new Government scheme separating couples can claim up to £500 towards mediation.
This is in order to assist and encourage parties to reach an out of court settlement, although some have suggested it is also to take the strain off of the family courts, and help clear some of the backlog in cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is anticipated up to 2,000 families will be able to claim these ‘mediation vouchers’ to cover the costs of mediation.
Parties will attend their initial mediation appointment (A MIAM) and the mediator will assess them for eligibility for the vouchers. Legal Aid will still be available for those that are eligible, and the vouchers are as well as Legal Aid.
If a party is eligible for the mediation vouchers then the mediator will apply directly for them to cover the costs of mediation.
In 2013 following the removal of Legal Aid for a large number of cases the Government made mediation compulsory before an application is made to the court (apart from in exceptional circumstances). It was thought this would lead to a massive increase in mediation, however it has had the opposite effect, with the number of new mediation referrals actually decreasing.
The Courts minister Lord Wolfson QC said of the scheme, ‘Mediation is often a quicker, cheaper and less stressful way of resolving disputes, which helps separating couples reach amicable agreements without an unnecessary and often acrimonious court process.'
‘Our new scheme will open up the benefits of these services to even more families – sparing them the stress of long legal battles, while also helping to lessen the pressure on our family courts as we recover from the pandemic.’
More information can be found at the official Gov.uk website pages at; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/family-mediation-voucher-scheme
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