From 3 November 2014 the first mediation session will be funded for both parties, provided at least one of them is already legally aided.
This follows the introduction, on 22 April, of compulsory Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM) when separating couples apply to court over children and financial matters.
Last year nearly two thirds of couples who attended mediation for a child dispute reached general agreement after a single mediation session. Almost 7 out of every 10 couples who opted for mediation reached a final agreement.
From January 1 2015 there will be a third stage in the government’s work to improve mediation and encourage separating couples to use it to resolve disputes. From the beginning of the New Year, the Family Mediation Council (FMC) is introducing a compulsory accreditation scheme and new professional standards which all mediators must work toward. All mediators and those working towards becoming a family mediator will be required to be registered with the FMC. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is funding the preparation work and costs of implementing the new standards. The new professional standards will mean that separating couples and parents can have confidence in the mediator they choose.
These are the latest stages of reforms to improve the family justice system and follow recommendations made by the independent Family Mediation Task Force.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP said:
Mediation works and is a more flexible, speedy and often more cost effective way to resolve disputes. I’m strongly committed to it being a successful and thriving part of the family justice system.
Our objective is to see more people resolving issues and reaching agreements on their own terms through mediation. It is often more successful, less expensive and less stressful than going to court and that is why we are committed to making sure more people use it.
The MOJ continues to closely monitor the family justice system. We have recently announced a package of measures to help separating couples avoid court, including the pilot of a new ‘supporting separating parents in dispute’ helpline. This will be run by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). There will also be an expanded programme of support for those who do end up in court.