Family mediation voucher scheme has been extended

In June, to help more families take advantage of mediation services, the government extended the scheme it introduced in 2021. This scheme offers families a £500 voucher towards the cost of mediation.

The last place a married couple wants to find themselves is in a courtroom. The stress and anxiety protracted court cases cause only serves to create additional animosity between those involved. If children are involved, the situation risks leaving an indelible mark on their upbringing and likely mental health too.

Divorce rates in the UK

The number of divorces in the UK has been steadily falling over the past 30 years, seeing a 34% drop since the early 1990’s. However, this welcome trend doesn’t show the full picture. This is because marriage rates have also been dropping. Since the early 1970’s the annual number of marriages, according to ONS data, has fallen by around 43%.

In 2019, the average age for divorce was 46 for men and 44 for women. The highest divorce rates were seen in the age range of 45 to 49.

Couples in their early to mid forties will likely be fairly established, probably have careers and likely have children in their early to mid teens. The prospect of working through the trauma and upheaval of a divorce when one or both of the parties were probably in ‘cruise mode’ – stable jobs, mortgage well on the way to being paid off, kids approaching the end of schooling, beginning to enjoy life a bit more, can make people behave in ways that are highly uncharacteristic, especially through denial. The desire to protect what one has built can often override a sense of what is right for others involved, especially children. Fighting breaks out.

What is mediation

Mediation is a route offered to separating couples as a way to help work through difficulties, avoiding as much animosity as possible and the cost of going to court.

The objective of mediation is to enable a trained mediator to help you work through your disagreements in a productive manner and to help you reach agreements that can be made legally binding. In some cases you may still need to attend court to have the agreement made binding, but this is a trivial amount of time compared to battling out agreements in front of a judge.

What is the benefit of mediation?

Probably the most important benefit is that at this point in the separation process, both parties are still in control and given some willingness on both sides, can come to an amicable agreement without a judge becoming involved. If your case does end up in court for resolution, you’ll have lost control as the judge will decide what happens to each of your assets and matters involving any children.

So, there’s a strong incentive to resolve your difficulties through a mediator. Even if you still wish to go to court, you will have to show that you have given the mediation route serious consideration and will still have to have attended an initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MAIM)

What is the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?

In May 2021, we commented on the significant rise on divorce rates due to COVID. The government’s response to the elevated divorce rate during the pandemic was to set up a scheme to help eligible couples cover the costs of mediation. How much you pay for mediation actually depends on the individual mediator’s rates and the number of session required.

This scheme offers £500 to each couple. It doesn’t cover the initial fee for the initial MAIM, which costs around £90 per person. If you qualify for legal aid, then this will be free.

In June 2022, the government extended the scheme and will provide an additional 10,200 vouchers. So far, around 8,400 have already been issued.

Who is eligible for mediation

During the initial MAIM session, your mediator will assess whether your case is suitable for mediation and whether you are eligible for the voucher. The case types most likely to be eligible for a voucher are those that also involve children.

how do I get a mediation voucher

Once your mediator has assessed your circumstances during the MAIM session and you agree to mediation, your mediator will apply for the voucher. The funds will be paid directly to the mediator, not you. Note that the voucher may not cover all the costs, the actual cost is dependent on your specific case, the number of sessions you may need to reach agreement and the fees of the individual mediator.

Is the scheme successful in helping couple reach agreement?

According to research from the body that runs the scheme – the Family Mediation Council (FMC), the results look good. Of 2800 completed cases that used the voucher, 65% wholly or partly reached an agreement out of court. Interestingly, the survey conducted by the FMC also showed that around 50% of those taking advantage, would not have considered mediation without the financial incentive of the scheme to do so.

Read more about the Government’s Family Mediation Voucher Scheme on the Government website here

Foys Family Mediation Solicitors

Foys has been at the heart of the local communities we serve for 50 years. We’ve built up an enviable reputation as trusted family law practitioners. As part of this we have a highly experienced Family Mediation team . They understand what couples go through when divorcing, especially if children are involved.

Let Foys Solicitors be your first step in reaching an amicable agreement with your partner. Call the local Foys office nearest you to find out how we can help.