In March 2021 the Ministry of Justice launched a voucher scheme which provides a contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of a couple attending mediation. One million pounds was made available to the Scheme which means 2000 families will benefit from it. This is an attempt to support people in resolving their family law disputes outside of the Court arena.
Family mediation is a process where a trained independent person helps a couple to work out arrangements following their relationship break down. Matters relating to finances, children or property may be discussed. The mediator helps the couple to find a solution to their disagreements and will explain how to make any agreement legally binding if they wish to do so.
Family mediation allows the couple to retain control because they alone decide what happens. If an application is made to Court a Judge makes the decision. It can be less stressful and quicker than going to Court but if agreement is not achieved then a Court application can still be made. When an application is made to Court in relation to many family law disputes it is necessary to show the Court that family mediation has been considered by demonstrating that attendance at a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) has taken place.
Often it can be difficult for separated couples to talk to one another and reach agreements. Family mediation provides a safe environment to resolve issues with the assistance of a mediator. Mediators will look to find a way in which arguments can be resolved. It is possible for mediation to take place with the couple being in separate rooms and the mediator moving between them. With the restrictions over the last year as a result of COVID 19 mediators have also offered on-line mediation.
The voucher scheme means that a financial contribution of up to £500 can be provided towards the costs of mediation. At the MIAM the mediator will discuss the voucher scheme, assess the couples’ eligibility for it and and, if appropriate, apply for the voucher. The voucher applies to the mediation sessions but not the MIAM and only if children matters are discussed. Only one £500 payment can be claimed and it is allocated to the case rather than to one of the couple attending.
The family mediation voucher scheme is a time-limited scheme so will only be available until the funding runs out. Not all mediators are participating the scheme. As at 9th June 2021 funding is continuing to be made available for it.
This article was written on 9th June 2021 and the law may change following this date. Every case, of course, depends on its own circumstances so always take legal advice from a trusted professional about your own set of circumstances.
Dawn Pennell is a Partner based at the Stalham Office.
Capron & Helliwell offer a fixed fee first appointment for family law matters – for details or to book an appointment please contact Dawn Pennell on 01692-581231 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article aims to supply general information but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seeks specific advice.