Why mediate? The benefits of family mediation
The use of mediation to resolve family disputes is already on the rise. However, many anticipate that recent changes to the legal aid system will only increase its appeal as an alternative form of dispute resolution.
As a result of legal aid changes, private family law matters – with limited exceptions – have been withdrawn entirely from the scope of legal aid with effect from 1st April 2013.
But what does this actually mean in practice?
Put simply, if you and your partner have separated and you want to resolve your dispute through the court, whether that dispute relates dividing up your assets, child contact or deciding where your children are to live, the only option you have is to pay privately for your legal action or represent yourself. You will no longer be able to fund your dispute using legal aid.
There are exceptions, of course. But as a rule, only cases involving history of domestic violence or child protection issues will enable you to access legal aid and take your dispute straight to court by right.
So what are the benefits of mediation?
Firstly, mediation can be much quicker. On average, mediated separations are resolved within 110 days, as opposed to 450 days for non-mediated.
Mediation can also be cheaper. Ministry of Justice figures put the average overall cost of mediation at around £535. We anticipate it being slightly higher when including fees for preparing the final agreement; however it’s worth bearing in mind that this is versus costs of up to £7,000 for litigated cases.
If you’re eligible, mediation may even be funded by legal aid now that the 1st April changes have taken effect.
If it’s a viable option for you, clearly there are benefits to you and your partner in considering mediation. But the benefits go far beyond the simple considerations of time and expense.
What else makes mediation more attractive?
Mediation is non-confrontational; it gives you and your partner the opportunity to reach amicable agreement together. For many this is preferable to going before a court, during which judgment will be imposed by someone who has no real understanding of your personal situation.
Also, as both parties have had equal input into what they’ve agreed, mediation gives you a sense of ownership. That in itself means the outcome is much more likely to be sustainable.
However mediation is fundamentally about finding that ‘middle ground’ or the point at which you can both negotiate. This can be particularly useful when children are involved in the relationship and you need to stay open minded, whilst keeping the lines of communication clear.
What support is there for mediation?
Given the benefits, it’s unsurprising that the Government has expressed strong support of mediation as a quicker, simpler and more effective way for separating couples to resolve family issues.
So much so, the Ministry of Justice is committed to spending £25m over the next year to support publicly-funded mediation and is also backing a requirement that will ensure all couples consider mediation before taking their dispute to court.
If you believe that this is something that would be effective for you in your separation, mediation offers an established means of moving forward and avoids the potentially traumatic and divisive effect of a court battle.
We can talk to you about your options and help you focus on finding practical, workable solutions to your family problems.
Alternatively, complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you.