Dundee Family Lawyer

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Separating couples lose out as family mediation numbers fall

A recent report from relationship support charity Relate has highlighted a dramatic drop in the number of separating couples accessing the charity’s mediation services in April to September 2013, compared with the same period in 2012.

The report reveals that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • Legal aid funded Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings were down 52% (with MIAMs down 26% overall).
  • Couples starting legal aid funded mediation fell by 35% (down 18% in total).
  • The number of solicitor referrals to mediation services fell by nearly three quarters (72%).

Mediation offers couples an out of court option to make arrangements around separation or divorce. An impartial mediator manages the process but the couple decide what arrangements to agree on.

With two thirds of couples who started publicly funded mediation between April 2007 and March 2013 reaching agreements, it is an effective option which can reduce conflict and costly legal fees whilst improving communication between separating couples.

However, since cuts to legal aid for family law cases and changes to the eligibility criteria for legal aid were implemented in 2013, Ministry of Justice figures show that the take up of mediation services has plummeted.

Chris Sherwood, Relate’s Director of Policy and External Affairs and co-author of the report, said:

"Family mediation services are unarguably in crisis. Our practitioners are telling us that people are really confused and don’t realise that legal aid for mediation is still available in many cases.

"We are worried that the most disadvantaged people who can’t afford to pay privately are either staying in damaging partnerships because they believe they can’t afford to separate, or are trying to cut legal fees by representing themselves in court.”

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For specialist family law advice, including advice on family mediation, give us a call today on 01382 234 348 or complete our online enquiry form.

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