Family law experts at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP are welcoming the introduction of a new voucher scheme that will enable more local couples to access mediation.
Vouchers are now being offered by the Ministry of Justice, up to the value of £500, for participants in family mediation who are not eligible for legal aid.
Dawn Lowry, a family law expert at Taylor&Emmet’s Rotherham office and qualified mediator, said: “There are huge delays in the family courts at present, so the introduction of mediation vouchers is a boost for separating couples wishing to move on with their lives. Not only will they save money, but they will also have the opportunity to reach a settlement that works for them, in a less stressful and confrontational environment.”
Free mediation is available to individuals who qualify for legal aid, however, if their partner is funding the mediation privately, they are responsible for their fees from the second session onwards, which can cause disengagement. Using the voucher scheme, the private client can access additional funding, allowing them to continue with the process. In some circumstances, this may mean another two or three mediation sessions can be undertaken before payment is required and, in many cases, this would be sufficient to resolve the issues.
The Family Mediation Council has been allocated £1 million to administer the Mediation Voucher Scheme, in a bid to reduce the costs of separation and keep couples out of the courts. Vouchers will be granted to participants in pre-mediation meetings (MIAMs) and paid directly to mediators registered with the scheme.
Dawn added: “The average legal fees associated with taking children proceedings to court range from £3,000 to £5,000, depending on their complexity. Mediation was already a cost-effective alternative for separating couples willing to enter into meaningful discussions about the future of their family, but the new voucher scheme will significantly reduce the costs further and we urge private clients to give it serious consideration.”
In cases where both parties are funding a separation privately, MIAMs would be payable at £108 each, before the voucher could be applied. This should then fund two sessions, or one longer meeting, as required.
For more information about the Mediation Voucher Scheme and eligibility, contact Taylor&Emmet’s family law team on (0114) 218 4000, visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk or follow the firm on Twitter, @TaylorEmmet.