Family Justice Minister Lord McNally has pledged an additional £10 million in funding for divorce mediation services .
The additional funding will bring the total spent over 2013 to £25 million.
Lord McNally said:
“All too often money is wasted on expensive and traumatic court hearings that can take far too long to resolve – and that is why we want to help people to use mediation, a quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes.”
According to the Ministry of Justice, the average cost of resolving property and finance issues in divorce proceedings through mediation is just £500 for clients receiving public funding, but £4,000 in the courts.
The additional funding follows the introduction of new regulations in April 2011 for most people planning to go to court for parenting disputes or financial issues following the end of a relationship. They are required to attend a ‘Mediation Information Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) in order to discuss the benefits and decide whether or not mediation would be appropriate to their situation.
There are exceptions. MIAMS are not required where:
*Both parties are already in agreement.
*No notice of court action has been given to the other person involved.
*There has been an allegation of domestic violence, and there has been a police investigation or court proceedings in relation to this.
*One of the parties is bankrupt where the family dispute involves money or financial issues.
*The whereabouts of the other person is unknown or they cannot be contacted.
*Court action is urgent, because there is a risk to life, liberty or physical safety; or because the delay caused by a MIAM would cause significant risk to a child or a significant risk of a miscarriage of justice, unreasonable hardship or serious problems in dealing with the dispute (for example, the loss of significant evidence).
*Social services are involved due to child protection concerns or issues.
*A child would be a participant in the possible court proceedings.
*The person planning the court action or their legal representative has contacted three family mediators within 15 miles of the person’s home and none have been available to conduct a MIAM within 15 days of being contacted.
What do I think? I think £10 million is not a lot of money. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have great reservations about the government’s current determination to push family mediation. The courts offer certainty, mediation does not.
The government knows how badly overcrowded are the courts have become and how overworked most judges now are. They have effectively abolished legal aid so of course they are now pushing people into mediation as a cheap stopgap. But mediation is not and cannot be a complete solution, just a small sticking plaster over a gaping wound.