Government pledges £10 million in additional funding for divorce mediation

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally has pledged an additional £10 million in funding for divorce mediation services .

The additional funding will bring the total spent over 2013 to £25 million.

Lord McNally said:

“All too often money is wasted on expensive and traumatic court hearings that can take far too long to resolve – and that is why we want to help people to use mediation, a quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes.”

According to the Ministry of Justice, the average cost of resolving property and finance issues in divorce proceedings through mediation is just £500 for clients receiving public funding, but £4,000 in the courts.

The additional funding follows the introduction of new regulations in April 2011 for most people planning to go to court for parenting disputes or financial issues following the end of a relationship. They are required to attend a ‘Mediation Information Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) in order to discuss the benefits and decide whether or not mediation would be appropriate to their situation.

There are exceptions. MIAMS are not required where:

*Both parties are already in agreement.

*No notice of court action has been given to the other person involved.

*There has been an allegation of domestic violence, and there has been a police investigation or court proceedings in relation to this.

*One of the parties is bankrupt where the family dispute involves money or financial issues.

*The whereabouts of the other person is unknown or they cannot be contacted.

*Court action is urgent, because there is a risk to life, liberty or physical safety; or because the delay caused by a MIAM would cause significant risk to a child or a significant risk of a miscarriage of justice, unreasonable hardship or serious problems in dealing with the dispute (for example, the loss of significant evidence).

*Social services are involved due to child protection concerns or issues.

*A child would be a participant in the possible court proceedings.

*The person planning the court action or their legal representative has contacted three family mediators within 15 miles of the person’s home and none have been available to conduct a MIAM within 15 days of being contacted.

What do I think? I think £10 million is not a lot of money. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have great reservations about the government’s current determination to push family mediation. The courts offer certainty, mediation does not.

The government knows how badly overcrowded are the courts have become and how overworked most judges now are. They have effectively abolished legal aid so of course they are now pushing people into mediation as a cheap stopgap. But mediation is not and cannot be a complete solution, just a small sticking plaster over a gaping wound.

Photo by Wonderlane via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

 

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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1 comment

Will Stewart - January 3, 2013 at 9:06pm

Hi Marilyn – I read your post with interest and despite usually agreeing with the points made in your blogs take issue with some of what you say about family mediation. Although in its relative infancy compared to the legal system, my experience of mediation has been a positive one with it providing a far more efficient alternative to the lengthy, costly and uncertain court process. Many clients I have seen as a mediator have much preferred the process over the stress of a war of correspondence between solicitors and much of what is agreed is often incorporated into a court order in any event. I’d agree that mediation is not suitable for every case and is certainly not a ‘complete solution’ (if there is there such a thing?). There will always be matters that need the expertise and prompt action of a lawyer and in some cases the last resort of court action. However, I believe that mediation is effective and can certainly help a great number of families. As a former litigator I can also attest to mediation’s good use in civil cases, but that’s another blog…

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