Family mediation – it really is cheaper and quicker – and that’s official

Anybody who has browsed this website, or who has read any of my earlier blog entries, will know that we are big fans of both the family mediation and collaborative law approaches to solving disputes arising out of relationship breakdown. Apart from all the other benefits such as reducing conflict, giving parties control, reassuring children that their parents are working together in the interests and generally making the whole process more dignified, we have always been utterly convinced that family mediation is much quicker and often much cheaper.

So it was nice to come across some official statistics that back me up. According to the National Audit Office “Value for Money Report”, family mediation services really do resolve family disputes more quickly and cheaply. Now, I should point out at this stage, that this report is hardly bang up to date – it’s over five years old and also did relate to family mediation using public funding [as we must now call legal aid] – but I’m pretty sure that the principles are sound.

According to the National Audit Office, the average family law dispute case dealt with by family mediators are sorted out in an average of just 110 days – which is quite remarkable when you compare that to the average length of non-mediated cases – an amazing 435 days! What’s more, the National Audit Office reports the average cost per client of resolving family law disputes using mediation was just £535 compared to £2,823 for disputes dealt with by the courts – again using public funding.

So there you have it – official proof that in addition to all its other benefits family mediation really is cheaper and quicker.

Family mediation set to receive funding injection

The government is set to invest £10m in family mediation; a move which it hopes will remove pressure on the courts and take some of the stress and acrimony out of divorce proceedings.

It has long been held that the government should throw support behind methods of dispute resolution which are cheaper, faster and less complicated than court proceedings. Family mediation has steadily grown in popularity in recent years and is now deemed to help save the expense and animosity that often characterises divorce.

Under family mediation, couples are encouraged to reach agreements between themselves without the need for solicitors to argue their case in court. It is usually the division of finances and arrangement of child residency and contact provisions that are decided using the process. Couples discuss their issues over a series of meetings with a fully accredited family mediator present. This mediator is able to direct discussions and encourage agreement before a final decision on the matters is taken by a judge. Whilst both sides should instruct a solicitor to inform them of their rights, solicitors will not be directly involved in the process.

Traditional court proceedings can be extremely stressful and it is often children who suffer the most and the new government plans may help to take some of the trauma out of divorce and separation. The government has already made it a legal requirement for couples to attend a family mediation meeting before being able to get any court orders relating to child custody or financial matters.

The problem with the new proposal is the figure itself. Whilst the government is absolutely right to look to give family mediation services more backing, £10m is not really enough of a commitment. Considering that this method could be crucial to many couples across the country, it is disappointing that the government has assigned such a small sum to its expansion.

Call our specialist Family Mediators/Lawyers today

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