A new voucher scheme was launched on 26 March 2021 which may help more people access mediation services and reduce the costs of mediation for some separating families to help resolve issues relating to children rather than going to Court.
The government has announced that it is investing £1m in family mediation, to support families to resolve issues relating to children. Under the scheme, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will provide contributions of up to £500 per family/case, to resolve issues relating to children following parental separation. The voucher contribution will be paid directly to mediators who have registered to take part in the scheme.
Mediation will be provided by Family Mediation Council Accredited (FMCA) mediators and the fund will reduce the costs of mediation for at least 2000 families.
Chris Myles, Head of family law at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors and accredited family mediator for over twenty years says “At a time when you think there is nowhere else to turn, family mediation could be the answer. If you are separating or getting a divorce, mediation is a proven way to calmly discuss arrangements with your partner or other family members. Communication is key and as a mediator, my role is to make that easier, without the added stress of going to Court.
A family mediator supports you to make decisions that are right for your family. Mediation means you stay in control of all the decisions you need to make. Through all my experience as a family mediator, I know that every family is different and therefore your mediation experience is always unique. I recognise that mediation can often be challenging for families and so we create a safe and supportive environment for you to share your thoughts and feelings.”
Family mediation is a process in which an independent, professionally trained mediator helps parents work out arrangements for children and finances following separation. Mediation can also be helpful when previous child arrangements need to change, particularly as children grow up.
Under this scheme by the FMC, vouchers can be granted to families where both parties have attended a pre-mediation meeting (MIAM) on or after 26 March 2021 (and other eligibility requirements are met), cases that have started before this date cannot benefit from this fund.
The scheme offers mediation participants a financial contribution of up to £500 per family towards the total costs of their mediation. This payment will be made directly to the mediation provider by the FMC which is administering the scheme on behalf of the MoJ.
Before confirming to you that a voucher is available for your family mediation so that you know that you will get the £500 contribution, your mediator will make a request for voucher allocation and receive a case reference number from the FMC – this is to ensure that vouchers are only allocated where funds are available and so that you can be updated before you proceed knowing if you have or have not got the voucher contribution before incurring costs for the family mediation directly.
Be aware that voucher funds are limited and there is no guarantee that a voucher can be allocated. Vouchers should cover the first £500 of mediation session costs unless you are on legal aid.
If you are eligible for legal aid, free mediation is available to individuals who qualify for legal aid, if their partner is funding the mediation privately, they are responsible for their fees from the second session onwards, which can cause disengagement so this voucher scheme could help keep both parties in mediation to resolve their conflicts.
John Taylor, Chair of the Family Mediation Council said ‘This government investment in mediation is much welcomed by the Family Mediation Council. It will help separated families agree solutions that are best for their children, taking into account what is going to be important for them as they grow up. Family mediation is a proven cost-effective way to resolve differences following separation. This voucher scheme will make it even more accessible, and will help families resolve issues for themselves, without having to go to court.’
For more information about family mediation, how it works and what it could do for you, please contact Chris Myles, family mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors on 01904 624185.
Chris offers family mediation services to people across North Yorkshire and further afield.
The Family Mediation Council is a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to promote the use of family mediation for the benefit of the public. It does not offer mediation itself. Family Mediation Council Accredited mediators meet rigorous professional standards.
You can contact the Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors family law legal advisors in Ryedale on 01653 600070 for help and advice.