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13 April 2021

Family mediation: Ministry of Justice voucher scheme

5 mins

The Ministry of Justice has launched a new Family Mediation voucher scheme which will provide eligible participants with a voucher of up to £500 to spend on mediation. The intention behind the scheme is to encourage separating couples to consider mediation as means of resolving the disputes which may arise following a relationship breakdown, and to assist the recovery of the family courts following the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Providing evidence that you have attempted mediation is now a requirement before commencing most applications in the family courts. In some circumstances mediation may not be the suitable forum to discuss your differences, however, there are many cases which will be suitable for mediation. There are clear advantages of trying to agree arrangements in this way, especially when children are involved. 

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is one way you can attempt to sort out any differences you may have with your spouse or partner following separation. A mediator is an independent and neutral third party who will attempt to help you and your partner or spouse reach agreements. Mediation can be considerably cheaper and less stressful than court proceedings.

What can be agreed at mediation?

You have control over what issues are addressed and discussed at mediation. Before any mediation sessions take place, a trained mediator will complete an initial assessment with each party to ascertain whether or not the case is suitable for mediation. This assessment is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

How long does mediation take?

One clear benefit of engaging in the mediation process is that participants will have control over what issues are discussed, and at what pace those negotiations take place. Court proceedings can unfortunately encounter delays and mediation is often a much quicker way of resolving disputes.

What happens if mediation is successful?

Relationship breakdowns are notoriously stressful for many reasons. If you have successfully agreed arrangements for your children and/or finances, you should feel considerably proud of your achievements.

If you wish to take legal advice upon the terms you have reached, our family law team can provide advice tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. We can, in particular, review the arrangements you have reached and discuss whether or not those agreements need to be drafted into a legal document to be approved by the Court. This will ensure the agreements become legally binding where required and where appropriate. Approval of an agreement in this way is unlikely to result in any court hearings, certainly where matters are not disputed.

What if mediation is unsuccessful?

If, for whatever reason, mediation does not result in an agreed outcome, it may be necessary to take legal advice on the discussions you have had to reconsider whether any alternative compromises can be reached. Participants in family mediation are entitled to obtain independent legal advice at any point during the mediation discussions should they wish to do so. If mediation breaks down, this does not necessarily mean you will have to issue court proceedings and there may be alternative methods of dispute resolution available to you.

Who will be eligible to participate in the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?

At present, the Government scheme is time-limited and only available to those couples who wish to discuss child arrangements, or for couples who wish to discuss financial and child arrangements. The scheme does not currently extend to financial disputes alone, although mediation outside of the voucher scheme is still available for those matters. A mediator will assess your eligibility for the scheme at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and can provide you with more information about whether or not you qualify at that meeting.

What do I have to do to take part in the scheme?

Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) can provide mediation under the voucher scheme. If you wish to explore whether or not you are eligible for this government assistance, you should locate a FMC registered mediator and set up your Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. More information about the scheme, and details of those mediators participating, can be found on their website:

At the initial meeting, the mediator will assess whether or not your case is suitable for mediation, and whether or not you qualify for the financial assistance provided by the scheme.

How can Bindmans help?

Please get in touch with our family law team if you wish to discuss your circumstances or consider whether your case may be suitable for mediation. You can also contact us for advice and assistance prior to engaging in mediation, or alongside the mediation process.

Alternatively, if you have already successfully reached an agreement at mediation and would like to discuss the implications of that agreement, and in particular whether or not any of the terms need to be legally binding, we would be more than happy to assist you.

Lastly, if mediation has been unsuccessful, or if you have reached an impasse during negotiations, it may be beneficial to take legal advice to establish whether there are any alternative proposals you can consider, or whether there may be an alternative method of dispute resolution suitable to your circumstances.

Get in touch with our family law solicitors by visiting our Family and Matrimonial page

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