I’m Divorcing – Am I Eligible for Free Mediation Sessions?

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash.
Nicki Mitchell
Nicki Mitchell
Jones Myers

For separating couples, mediation can be a highly effective way of avoiding a lengthy, costly, and drawn-out Court divorce in which children are often caught up in the crossfire.

To help more couples in this situation, the Government has launched and extended a Family Mediation Voucher Scheme to encourage more people to undergo mediation.

What is the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?

The publicly funded scheme helps separating couples to resolve their family law disputes outside of Court, giving them up to £500 towards the costs of mediation.

Both people involved need to agree to take part – and only Mediators like me who are authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) can conduct the sessions.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Most divorcing couples are required by law to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). At this session a qualified mediator assesses whether mediation is appropriate for your individual case – and if you qualify for the scheme.

Eligible cases must involve a dispute or court application involving a child, although the sessions can also cover related issues around finances.

Which cases do NOT qualify for the funding?

  • If you’re applying for a consent order
  • If any children are involved in emergency proceedings, care proceedings or supervision proceedings
  • If any of the children are the subject of an emergency protection order, care order or supervision order

Where there are allegations of domestic abuse, the mediator will carefully assess with the person alleging that abuse whether mediation is suitable.

What happens if I quality?

Your mediator will apply for the voucher funding, paid directly to them when the mediation is concluded. Vouchers are limited and the mediation sessions can be attended together or separately.

Will the £500 cover all mediation costs?

This depends upon the mediator’s fees and the number of sessions needed. The voucher is intended to be a contribution towards mediation sessions.

What happens if the mediation doesn’t work?

You and your ex should take advice as to the options available.  Ultimately, if all else fails, you can make an application to go to Court.

What happens if the mediation is successful?

The arrangements agreed in mediation can be put into a document which is often known as a “parenting plan” which you can then both sign.  This provides a useful record of your agreement.

A parenting plan does not have the status of a court order.  However, court orders are not usually necessary or desirable in children cases.

The law (The Children Act 1989) works on the basis of the “non-intervention principle”. Put simply, the law recognises that parents are much better placed to parent than a court and so orders will only be made where necessary in the best interests of a child.

If you can agree, then an order is often not necessary. An order made when children are young will often become a straight jacket by the time they are older.  It makes sense for you to continue to review what your children need as they grow up, and this is much easier to do in mediation than in repeated court applications.

In our extensive experience, along with speed and cost, mediation helps to minimise the damaging fallout from a separation, enabling both parents and their children to move forward.

For more information on the scheme visit Family Mediation Voucher Scheme – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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About Nicki Mitchell

Nicki is a partner at Jones Myers, a niche, multi award-winning family law firm based in Leeds, Harrogate, and York.

With extensive experience in family law, Nicki specialises in the financial aspects of relationship breakdown – and particularly complex cases involving family businesses, multiple properties, and complicated pension arrangements.

A skilled mediator and collaborative family lawyer, Nicki has recently further enhanced her extensive expertise by becoming a child-inclusive mediator. The accreditation enables her to meet with children of separated parents and hear what they want for their future.

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