Dealing with family separation can be a challenging and emotionally draining process. For couples with children, the stakes are even higher, as they strive to protect their young ones from the negative impact of a contentious breakup. With the UK government’s latest family law proposals, the focus is on encouraging families to consider mediation as a primary solution.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of mediation, the government’s initiatives to support families, and how these new measures can help create a more amicable environment for everyone involved.

Mediation – A Kinder Alternative to Court Battles

Family mediation is a process that helps separating couples make arrangements over parenting, property, and finances, allowing them to maintain control over their family’s future. Unlike traditional court processes, mediation offers a more flexible, cost-effective, and less stressful approach to resolving disputes.

With the help of a professional, independent, and trained mediator, couples can work together to create long-term solutions tailored to their unique circumstances, rather than leaving the fate of their family in the hands of the court.

It’s important to note that a mediator does not provide relationship counselling or tell each person what to do, but can help them reach an agreement while trying to improve communication between them. They aren’t there to try and keep couples together, but to help them find a practical way forward after a relationship has broken down.

The Government’s New Family Law Proposals

In an effort to support families and promote the use of mediation, the UK government has introduced a series of new measures through the Ministry of Justice. The three main proposals include:

  1. Making mediation a pre-court requirement in low-level family dispute cases: By encouraging couples to attempt mediation before resorting to court, the government aims to reduce the stress, cost, and delays associated with the court process.
  2. Introducing a power for judges to impose cost orders (financial penalties) in appropriate cases: This measure seeks to incentivise couples to make a reasonable attempt at mediation before heading to court.
  3. Requiring parents to attend co-parenting programmes pre-court: By shifting the focus to co-parenting education before court proceedings, the government hopes to foster better communication and cooperation between separating parents, ultimately benefiting the children involved.

The Voucher Scheme – Making Mediation More Accessible

To further support families in choosing mediation, the government has extended its voucher scheme, which offers eligible couples £500 towards their mediation costs. The scheme, initially set to end in March 2023, has been extended until 2025, making mediation a more affordable option for local families.

An analysis of the first 7,200 users of the scheme showed that 69% of participants reached whole or partial agreements away from court. This demonstrates the potential of mediation to help thousands of separating couples find mutually agreeable resolutions and minimise the emotional impact on their children.

This Government plan has been welcomed by Dootsons Solicitors mediation and family dispute experts. Angie Brown, Head of Family Law & Mediation believes the scheme will boost the prospects of families in the North West, reaching agreements on all-important money and parenting arrangements after they have decided to separate or divorce, saying “This couldn’t come at a better time when most couples are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis”.

“Family mediation is a process where an independent, professionally-trained mediator helps you work these things out. The £500 voucher scheme will encourage many more couples in our local areas to try family mediation, instead of suffering the stress, delay and cost of going to court to make settlements. Professional mediators help empower you to create long-term solutions for your particular circumstances, rather than leaving it to a court to make decisions for your family.”

Prioritising Serious Cases and Safeguarding Children

By promoting mediation and reducing the demand on family courts, the government seeks to prioritise more serious cases involving safeguarding concerns, such as domestic abuse. This approach aims to protect children from the detrimental effects of lengthy and stressful courtroom battles, which can have lasting negative impacts on their development and life chances.

Choosing the Right Mediator

When considering mediation, it’s crucial to select a mediator who is not only experienced but also approved by the Family Mediation Council (FMC). The FMC regulates family mediation in England and Wales, ensuring that mediators are appropriately trained, follow the FMC’s Code of Practice, maintain professional development, and are supported by a supervisor (known as a Professional Practice Consultant). Choosing an FMC-approved mediator guarantees a high level of professionalism and access to a complaints process if anything goes wrong.

Embracing a Brighter Future: Supporting Families Through Mediation and Collaboration

The UK government’s new family law proposals and initiatives offer a promising shift towards a more supportive and compassionate approach to family separation. By encouraging the use of mediation and providing financial incentives, these measures can help alleviate the emotional and financial burdens associated with separation for countless families. As more couples choose mediation over traditional court battles, children can be better protected from the long-lasting negative effects of contentious breakups.

For families navigating the difficult process of separation, considering mediation and making use of the government’s supportive initiatives can lead to more amicable outcomes, fostering a healthier environment for everyone involved. Remember to choose a mediator who is not only experienced but also approved by the Family Mediation Council to ensure the best possible guidance and support during this challenging time. With the right resources and a focus on collaboration, families can move forward with greater resilience and a stronger foundation for their future.