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Legal aid still available for family mediation services
Government attempts to promote family mediation as an alternative means of resolving separation and custody battles are failing, according to reports.
Ministry of Justice figures show that since the April 2013 cuts to legal aid, the number of couples attending family mediation sessions has fallen by 47%.
Between April and June last year, 7,381 couples in England and Wales attended MIAM (mediation information and assessment meetings). Over the same three months in 2013, the numbers fell to 3,854 – a drop of 47%.
The number of couples starting family mediation sessions also fell from 3,564 to 2,623 over the same period – a decline of 26%.
Consequently the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) have reported a 27% increase in the number of private cases in the family courts. This has inevitably lead to delays, but is likely to improve next year when it becomes compulsory for all couples considering court action to first attend a mediation (MIAMs) meeting.
How mediation can help you resolve your family dispute
Tom Powles, Partner & head of BW Family Mediation, says:
“Since the cuts to public funding, we’re seeing more and more clients who simply aren’t aware that legal aid is still available for family mediation. Many more have no idea how to check their eligibility, or indeed whether they’re likely to be eligible at all.
Clients that are eligible are also unaware that they can also access legal aid-funded advice from a solicitor alongside mediation. Not only are they able to receive independent legal advice whilst engaging in mediation, but in certain finance cases the solicitor will be able to draw up a legally-binding final agreement at the end of the process.
Clearly a drop in referrals is bad news for the clients who are missing out on all the potential benefits of mediation. Mediation isn’t just quicker and more cost-effective than going to court, it’s also a more harmonious way of dealing with family disputes.
Our message is that legal aid is still available for family mediation. If you’re eligible, we can help you access it but regardless, we’re committed to helping more people find suitable alternatives to court.”
To speak to someone about family mediation, call us on 0117 9636 202 or visit our family mediation website at http://bwfamilymediation.co.uk/.