Plans have recently been announced to shake up the family justice system by making mediation compulsory for separating couples. Rather than have a judge decide how much time a child will spend with each parent and/or how to split assets, mediation is a process in which couples work together to agree their differences with the help of a trained and accredited family mediator. This new proposal aims to protect thousands of families from the trauma and expense of lengthy court proceedings, which can be particularly damaging to any children of the family. By introducing this measure the Government’s aim is to leave court as a last resort for cases that need to be prioritised for safeguarding concerns where mediation is not an option – such as domestic abuse and safeguarding concerns. It is hoped that whilst primarily helping families to resolve their disputes outside of court that it will also reduce court backlogs thereby easing pressures on the family courts.
The existing Family Mediation Voucher Scheme funded by the Government will be extended until April 2025, and will be backed by an additional £15 million in support of this compulsory measure. Research clearly demonstrates that children are adversely impacted when their parents engage in protracted courtroom battles; it affects their school work, mental health and quality of life. The voucher scheme has highlighted the positive effects and benefits mediation can have on separating couples and their children. Mediation has been shown to provide cheaper, quicker and non-adversarial solutions for separating families.