Family Law Solicitors, Major Family Law, Divorce and Children specialists, Newcastle comment the Ministry of Justice has announced that more mediation sessions will be free and funded by Government.

The number of people taking up mediation fell significantly in 2013 following legal aid overhauls. Since the implementation of the Children and Families Act on 22 April 2014, it has been compulsory for people to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before they can apply for a court order.

The announcement of a free mediation session for both parties follows recommendations made by the independent Mediation Task Force. The mediation session will be free for both parties if either one of them qualifies for legally aided mediation. At present only the legally aided party can have the session for free, meaning there is a cost for the other member of the couple, which can deter them from taking part.

The announcement has been welcomed by Relate whose Chief Executive, Ruth Sutherland, said:

“We welcome the Government’s renewed support for mediation as a better way to resolve disputes between separating couples. Family mediation services, such as those delivered by Relate, are facing a really difficult time and the Government’s efforts to increase take up are to be welcomed.

“Currently, many separating couples are confused about whether legal aid is available and we are worried that the most disadvantaged people who can’t afford to pay privately are either staying in damaging partnerships because they believe they can’t afford to separate, or are trying to cut legal fees by representing themselves in court.

“Funding one single mediation session for everyone (if one of the parties is already legally aided) and investing in raising public awareness about mediation and legal help for mediation will make a real difference for many separating couples.

“Mediation offers couples an out of court option to make arrangements around separation or divorce. An impartial mediator manages the process but the couple decide what arrangements to agree on. With two thirds of couples who started publicly funded mediation between April 2007 and March 2013 reaching agreements, it is an effective option which can reduce conflict and costly legal fees whilst improving communication between separating couples.”