Government Support for Family Mediation
I have written before about how the Courts are supportive of mediation, most Judges and Magistrates would much rather parents resolved their issues in mediation rather than have a solution imposed upon them by the Court. Similarly, the Government has also encouraged the use of mediation by continuing to make legal aid available for these discussions. This financial assistance has now been extended in the form of a family mediation voucher scheme which will make £1 million available for mediation costs.
The scheme does have its limitations in that it is not available for initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM), for mediation dealing exclusively with property and financial matters and there is no guarantee that a voucher will be available, however, I believe it to be a very positive step forward. I routinely speak to people about the benefits of mediation as an alternative to court proceedings and hear on a regular basis that, although the client concerned believes mediation to be a better way forward, they are caught in the trap of being on a low income but just over the legal aid financial eligibility limit and therefore feel almost forced to make a court application themselves and proceed with the application without legal representation. This new scheme seems to be the solution to a common dilemma.
The scheme is available:
• In all mediation cases involving child disputes where mediation meetings take place after 26 March 2021, including those cases where there are also outstanding property and financial issues.
• There is no means testing, so it is available to all regardless of income.
• It provides financial assistance of up to £500 per case.
In summary, the family mediation voucher scheme is a reassuring and encouraging move. As well as the existing benefits of mediation:
• Quicker and cheaper than the Court process.
• Legal aid is available.
• More flexible timetable.
• Parents keep control of their own decision making and outcomes.
• More child centered, holistic approach.
• Improvement in communication and parenting apart.
• It now has the benefit of financial assistance being available to all.