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Government Plans for Mediation to become the 'default route' for Separating and Divorcing Couples

View profile for Hannah Craven
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I read with interest an article which appeared in the Law Gazette recently about plans that Dominic Raab has to keep individuals from bringing their family disputes to Court. These plans include making mediation the default process in family disputes and making it easier to award substantial legal costs against those individuals thought to be abusing the Court system.

The article mentioned that Mr Raab is keen to make mediation the default option and is looking into incentives and disincentives to encourage parents to consider that route. Seemingly frustrated by the number of cases which make their way into the justice system, the government continue to place an emphasis on utilisation of alternative forms of dispute resolution and reiterate that the Court process should always be considered a last resort.

Government Vouchers Scheme to help with Family Mediation

In early 2021, the Ministry of Justice introduced a £1m voucher scheme to encourage families to engage with mediation. This was then topped up a further £800,000. This seems to be working very well and has enabled more and more separating couples to engage with mediation as opposed to resolving their disputes in Court.

Whilst it’s accepted that mediation does not work for everybody, for example those who have suffered domestic abuse, mediation can be a valuable tool in helping separating couples resolve their issues in a non-confrontational way that is also often quicker and cheaper than resolving issues via the Court process.

What are the advantages of mediation?

The main advantage of mediation is the impartiality of the mediator. The mediator is not on anybody’s side. Their role is simply to listen to both individuals and help steer them to reaching a settlement. Most mediators are qualified solicitors and so have a real insight into the law and extensive experience which is helpful. Any discussions which take place in mediation are “without prejudice” which means that they cannot be used against them in Court.  This means that individuals can talk openly and freely without worrying that any discussions will come back to bite them at a later stage.  

This is the first time in my career that I have really noticed a drive in encouraging separating individuals to consider alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation and is something which I fully support. Often, the involvement of solicitors and the litigious nature of Court proceedings can add to the hostility and acrimony between individuals which is unhelpful.  As a Family Law practitioner, I have noticed an emphasis on the need to encourage Client’s to consider alternative forms of dispute resolution. This is also enshrined in the Family Procedure Rules which Family Law practitioners must always adhere to.

Mediation at Thornton Jones Solicitors

Here at Thornton Jones Solicitors, we have an experienced team of Family Law Mediators who are able to guide you through the mediation process.

Prior to taking your matter to Court, you will be required to at least have attended a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) which will assess your suitability for mediation, and you will be expected to attempt to resolve your matter through mediation. If at any point your matter is considered unsuitable for mediation, then your Mediator will recommend the case be progressed through the court system.

There are some situations where you are exempt from the requirement to attend mediation and our experienced team can discuss and advise you on.

Separation, Divorce, and Mediation FAQs

  • Can I get help with Mediation costs?

    Yes. The government introduced a voucher scheme in early 2021 designed to support individuals who may be able to resolve their disputes using mediation, and therefore keeping the matter out of Court.

    Legal aid is also available on a means tested basis. Although Thornton Jones Solicitors do not undertake Legal Aid work, we can direct you to a suitable firm of solicitors who can help.

  • How much does Mediation cost?

    Here at Thornton Jones we charge £100 plus VAT for the initial MIAM appointment. Note that this fee is payable per person. ​See our Fees & Funding page for more information on the fees we charge for our legal services.

    The following charges will apply for any further sessions:
    • Children-only Mediation - £650 plus VAT per person
    • ​Property and Finance only mediation - £750 plus VAT per person
    • All-issues mediation (children, property, and finances) - £800 plus VAT per person
    • Child Inclusive Mediation - Usually we do not charge any additional sums for speaking to a child as part of the two session children-only mediation as set out above.  This depends upon suitability.
  • Can mediation avoid the need to attend court?

    Yes. It may be that you are able to resolve your dispute in the mediation sessions without the need for Court involvement. For examples, disputes concerning child arrangements can be agreed and resolved in a mediation setting.
  • What’s the difference between Mediation and Arbitration?

    Arbitration is a more formal process than mediation in which individuals agree to a trained Arbitrator making a binding decision settling their disputes.  Arbitrators are all experienced Family Law professionals.  The advantages of Arbitration are that it is more informal and quicker than going to Court and, unlike Court proceedings, is private and confidential in all circumstances.  However, like going to Court, it resolves in a binding settlement with the Arbitrator making the final decision on the outcome.

The main difference between Arbitration and Mediation is that any agreement reached in Mediation is not legally binding.

How do I initiate Mediation?

If you wish to initiate mediation then please contact a member of our reception team at any of our offices for further information. Please see contact details below.

Westbourne House, 99 Lidgett Lane, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 1LJ
Tel: 0113 246 4423

25 Bank Street, Ossett, WF5 8PS
Tel: 01924 586466

Sherburn in Elmet
6 Finkle Hill, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, LS25 6EA
Tel: 01977 350500

Bank House, 1 Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2GF
Tel: 01924 290029

About Hannah Bowes

Hannah is a Family Law Solicitor at Thornton Jones Solicitors. Hannah joined Thornton Jones in early 2017 after gaining valuable experience at both Irwin Mitchell and Stewarts Law. She commenced her training to become a Solicitor in early November 2017 and qualified as a Solicitor in June 2019. She subsequently joined the Family Law team here at Thornton Jones and specialises in helping couples navigate the Court process when separating and divorcing.