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Government announces consultation period for review of mediation

24/03/2023

On 23 March, the government announced proposals that will, if introduced, mandate mediation for separating families. The aim is to divert family disputes away from the courts, primarily with an eye to shielding children from the impact of acrimonious and long-running court processes often fraught with delays. The proposals place decisions in the hands of the parents, albeit supported by a qualified mediator. Court will be (as it should be anyway) a last resort.

The proposals recognise that mediation is not appropriate for all. It will not be mandated in cases which include allegations or a history of domestic violence, or those raising concerns about child welfare. However, the freeing up of court time and resources elsewhere should allow swifter resolution of family disputes. It is estimated that, each year, 36,000 vulnerable families will benefit from faster hearings and quicker resolutions as a result.

As the consultation gets under way, the government’s Family Mediation Voucher Scheme will be extended until April 2025 backed by an additional £15,000,000 in funding. The scheme provides separating couples with vouchers worth up to £500 to help them solve disputes through mediation. It is reported that over 15,300 families have benefited so far.

LMP partner Kate Stovold, who has recently completed her training as an all-issues mediator with Resolution, is cautiously optimistic about the consultation:

“Any measure that aims to soften the destructive impact of divorce and separation on children must be received with some optimism. However, a cornerstone of mediation is the parties’ voluntary participation in the process. I shall therefore be interested to see how that is considered in the consultation process. I am also mindful that whilst physical domestic violence is more readily identified, domestic violence takes many shapes and forms. As a mediator, I must always be alive to power imbalances, and these can present in a variety of ways. The consultation will require careful and sensitive assessment of these proposals and I await the findings with interest.”

For further information, read the government press release here.

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