Most industries have been under considerable strain over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the family courts are no different. In order to keep everyone safe, the family courts put in place remote hearings at an early stage, so urgent cases have been able to continue via telephone or video conferencing.
Now, as we come out of the latest (and hopefully last) lockdown, the government has launched a £1 million voucher scheme to help families to resolve disputes outside of court.
What does the new scheme involve?
In order to help families avoid stressful and costly court battles, the government will give £500 towards the cost of mediation to around 2,000 families.
This amount will be provided by the government without the need for a means test.
Why is the government paying towards mediation?
Mediation is the process by which a divorcing or separating couple meet with a mediator (an independent third party), with the aim of reaching an agreement about anything from child arrangements to financial matters.
According to government figures, more than 70% of couples using mediation services resolved their issues outside of the courtroom.
This means that mediation not only has the potential to save separating parents both money and time by avoiding court, it is also a really effective way to relieve pressure on the family court system by diverting suitable cases elsewhere, particularly during this difficult time.
Will our agreement made in mediation be legally binding?
In order to make your agreement legally binding, you will need to ask a court to make it into a legally binding and enforceable court order.
Your solicitor can help you to do this.
Who can apply for the scheme?
Families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters which relate to children, such as child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding the upbringing of a child, are eligible.
If the scheme can be used, the mediator will claim back the contributions from the government.
Where can I find more information about the scheme?
You should be given further information about the scheme during your Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Usually, you will have to attend this meeting before going to court, unless you have a valid reason not to (domestic abuse, for example).
If you would like to find out more about whether you could qualify for the scheme and whether mediation is the right option for you, get in touch to book you free consultation with one of our experienced family solicitors.