How is the scheme promoting other methods of dispute resolution out of court?

A new drive to promote settling disputes outside of court has been launched by the Government with the aim of promoting mediation as an alternative to court proceedings. Couples who are in the process of separating are given a £500 voucher towards mediation with the intention that this should relieve pressure on the Family courts. It also has the benefit of sparing the emotional trauma of court proceedings, especially in matters regarding children.

Usually, each mediation session is charged for, unless one party qualifies for legal aid. Early data from the Family Mediation Council (FMC), who oversee the programme, proves promising as the data has shown up to three-quarters of participants have been able to reach a full or partial agreement to their dispute.


Benefits of mediation as an alternative to court action

The scheme is showing the benefits mediation can bring as an alternative to family court proceedings as it avoids the delays inherent in the court system and the significant financial costs in going to court. Mediation entails couples discussing their issues and coming to practical solutions with the help of an accredited and trained mediator.

The advantage of choosing mediation as an alternative to court action is the process is voluntary thus any agreement will be with the consent of both parties. It also avoids the parties being forced to accept an authoritative decision from a judge which will be legally enforceable. Whereas, mediation is guided by the parties thus is more likely to consider both parties’ interests. It also preserves the parties’ confidentiality unlike in court. An agreement in mediation can still be made enforceable by asking the court to consider their agreement and produce the agreement as a legally binding and enforceable court order.


Developments on the scheme

The scheme is available for families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters such as child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding a child’s upbringing. Additional investment in the Scheme follows ‘A Call for Evidence on dispute resolution’ launched earlier this month on the most effective methods to settle family, business and other civil disputes away from court.

This follows the Government attempting to move away from the blame culture that has prevailed in divorce law by bringing forward new legislation to spare couples placing blame on their partner when petitioning for divorce. There has been progress in protections afforded to victims of domestic abuse by way of an automatic entitlement for special measures in court and increased powers for judges to prevent abusers dragging their victims to court.


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