The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has recently launched the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, which aims to contribute to the cost of mediation for private child law disputes. The MoJ has invested £1 million, enabling separating parents to apply for up to £500 of support. Mediation can be a very effective resource which can provide the participants a forum where they can aim to reach an agreement over the arrangements (both child and finance) following separation. According to the MoJ, more than 70% of couples using mediation services resolved their issues outside of the courtroom.
What support does the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme offer?
Under this scheme, separating parents can claim up to £500 (including VAT) to contribute towards the cost of mediation. The £500 will be paid directly to the mediation providers. The scheme will not cover Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs). These are initial meetings held with each party individually. If one party is not willing to attend mediation or it is deemed inappropriate to continue in the process, the attendance at a MIAM allows those individuals to then make an application to court if so advised.
Mediation has been taking place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Most mediators offer their services online, through video or telephone appointments.
Who is eligible?
This one-off fixed contribution is non means tested, so your income or capital will not be assessed. The scheme only offers support to private law disputes about children. So, for example, it would cover, married or unmarried, heterosexual or same sex couples who have children together (not necessarily biologically), who have separated and would like to try and reach an agreement surrounding the arrangements for the children following separation. The funds are only available to participants who attend a MIAM on or after 26th March 2021.
How can mediation help?
Mediation is a collaborative process, which allows participants to form an agreement together with the support of a trained and accredited mediator. Mediation is typically less expensive and time consuming than court proceedings. It is however often advisable for those participating in mediation to seek advice prior to and sometimes during the mediation process. In our experience this makes the process much more likely to succeed and a fair outcome reached.
In relation to financial issues after an agreement is formed, the participants can then ask a court to consider their agreement and make it into a legally binding and enforceable court order.
If you cannot reach an agreement in mediation, you can still utilise the courts. You can also attend family mediation after you have begun court proceedings.