The Ministry of Justice has launched a Family Mediation Voucher Scheme which provides a contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation to support people to resolve family law disputes without having to go to court.
The scheme is time-limited and will run until the £1million fund has been spent. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! So, here’s what you need to know.
Before making a court application for certain types of family law orders, you will be required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
This is a short meeting with a qualified mediator who will assess whether mediation is an appropriate option for you. Both parties need to attend a MIAM before undertaking mediation. Your MIAM is free if you are eligible for legal aid or otherwise will cost around £90 per person.
Not all cases are eligible under the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme. The following types of cases are eligible for a mediation voucher:
- A dispute/application regarding a child.
- A dispute/application regarding family financial matters where you are also involved in a dispute/application relating to a child. (If your issues solely relate to financial remedy disputes or applications, you will not be able to obtain a voucher.)
If you are eligible and decide to go ahead with mediation, your mediator will apply for the voucher funding and it will be paid directly to them once all mediation sessions are concluded.
The £500 voucher is a one-off contribution, so can only be claimed once per family (not per party). If one party is eligible for legal aid, the £500 will be paid in addition to any legal aid entitlement, not instead of it.
The voucher may not cover the entire cost of mediation, but your mediator will tell you their rate and how many sessions it is likely to cover.
Family mediation is a process where a trained independent mediator helps you work through disagreements and find solutions that work for both of you. Any agreement that you reach can be made legally binding.
Mediation lets you stay in control and can be less stressful and quicker than going to court. However, if you fail to reach agreement, you can still go to court to seek resolution.
Family mediation can also help when circumstances change requiring you to make new arrangements, for example, altering child arrangements as children grow up.
The voucher scheme came into effect on 26 March 2021 and mediation sessions must start after 1 April 2021.
It is estimated that at least 2,000 families across the country could benefit from the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme.
The scheme is great news for families whose circumstances lend themselves to resolution without the need to go to court, but the funds won’t last long so my advice is to act quickly if you wish to benefit.
For tailored advice about the best way forward to resolve your family matter, book an appointment with one of our family solicitors. You’ll receive straightforward advice on the next steps to take and, if you are eligible for the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, will be referred to an authorised Family Mediator Council professional.
To find out more and to get the ball rolling call us on 01782 205000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org