Increase in mediation
The Ministry of Justice has recently published figures suggesting that the use of mediation has increased since last year and now exceeds pre-COVID-19 levels.
Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (one to one sessions with a mediator) increased by 14% between October and December 2020 compared to the previous year. Family mediation starts, where both parties attend a joint session with a mediator increased by 11% and total outcomes increased by 16% of which 62% were successful agreements.
This comes as a new voucher scheme has been launched to encourage the use of mediation in as many family cases as possible. Under the scheme, parties will be able to apply for a £500 voucher towards the cost of mediation which is usually charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.
The Ministry of Justice says that research suggests that more than 70% of those using mediation services will resolve their issues without needing to resort to using the court to decide the case.
The initiative also aims to alleviate pressures on the family courts system resulting from the pandemic by diverting cases better suited for mediation away from the courts. The scheme is eligible for families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children.
If a case is eligible for vouchers, the mediator will automatically claim back the contributions from the government. Full details of the scheme, how to take part and how vouchers are allocated can be found on the FMC website
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.