An increase in funding for mediation vouchers should help with the huge backlog of cases in Family Courts.

Divorce is never easy, and anything that can reduce the strain on families is always welcome.

The process of divorce can be a lengthy one, and with the backlog of court cases piling up the government has decided to add more funding to the mediation scheme to the tune of £5.4 million

The scheme provides separating couples with £500 vouchers to spend on mediation, designed to help them come to mutually agreed terms for key issues such as child visitation.

Why introduce a mediation voucher scheme?

These vouchers are designed to help free up valuable space in the family court system, as well as to reduce the length of time families have to spend going through a long and damaging divorce.

There has already been success with a similar scheme, with the majority of cases reaching either a full or partial agreement without going to court. This cash injection will more than double the available funding to £8.7 million, with around 10,200 more families receiving help in 2022.

Overload of divorce cases

The backlog of divorce cases pending in family courts is not inconsiderable. At the start of 2022 there were nearly 59,000 cases awaiting resolution, although this is an improvement on the 2021 numbers. This is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed, and the voucher system is an attempt to help.

Not all divorces end up in court, though, only those that are seen as being the most complex; and of course the whole issue of divorce is a very sensitive one for the parties involved.

Effects of divorce on families

We all know families who have been torn apart through a difficult divorce process, and know that ugly divorces can cause a considerable amount of distress to both children and parents.

Having the option to go through a mediator instead of ending up in court is a useful option, though not a suitable fit for everyone. However, if at all possible it has to be preferable to going to court, especially with budgets stretched through the current cost of living crisis.

The impact of unequal funding on Family Law

There is clearly a need to improve funding for the matrimonial court system, in order to reduce the queue of people waiting to have their cases processed, and who in the meantime are stressed about their family situations.

There is an option for free mediation if you qualify for Legal Aid, but if the other party funds the mediation themselves it may result in an unequal situation. Using the voucher scheme allows the private client to access increased funding, and in some circumstances this means that an extra 2 or 3 sessions of mediation can take place before payment is required. In many cases, and with the right mediator, this may be all that is needed to solve issues between the two parties.

Overall, the voucher scheme is beginning to produce positive outcomes with clients going through divorce proceedings, and relieving pressure on the family court system. The courts are desperate to continue with this help though, as the program has barely made a dent in their case backlog.

The benefits of mediation versus going to family court

  • If children are involved, mediation prevents exposure to the trauma of legal battles and can help ensure that their relationship with each parent remains as secure and positive as possible.
  • It is also considerably less expensive to go down the civil route, and cases can usually be resolved in a lot less time than they would take in court.
  • The mediators will not force an agreement onto anyone. You have full say over what you want out of the settlement, nothing is ever forced onto either party.

It is always preferable to go through divorce using mediation, and even negotiation with solicitors involved, since family court proceedings can be distressing, expensive, and lengthy.

Talk to us about divorce and mediation

We have always been keen for divorcing couples to avoid acrimony: as you can see in articles such as 10 Steps Toward a Straighforward Divorce, and our championing the No-fault Divorce that finally became available in 2022.

If you would like to know more about the mediation voucher scheme, or any other aspect of divorce, contact Cunningtons Family Law solicitors today.

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