Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly has announced that family solicitors could receive a fixed fee of £150 to provide advice during mediation and to formalise and give legal effect to any agreement reached. The Minister added that the fee will be payable whether the mediation succeeds or not.
In a speech to the National Family Mediation annual conference yesterday, Mr Djanogly outlined the Government's commitment to mediation. He told the conference: "let me make it clear that we do remain committed to supporting families at these most difficult moments and believe it is right to continue to provide those who are eligible, with Legal Aid for mediation in relation to disputes over arrangements for children, and disputes over property and finance that have arisen as a result of family relationship breakdown. This will mean that those vulnerable people who need support will be able to continue to benefit from mediation."
Currently, those who receive legal aid and wish to issue most family proceedings have to attend a meeting to learn about mediation before they may access public funds to take their case to court. There are some exceptions to this, including for people with disabilities. Mr Djanogly supports the removal of this exception.
"Why should disability preclude someone from getting to learn about mediation? The tightened-up exemptions list came into force earlier this month. As a consequence, more people will be able to learn about mediation and a proportion of them will go on to agree settlements away from the courts. This would be a good outcome," Mr Djanogly said.
There are now 210 quality assured LSC contracted family mediation services, which represents a 12% increase compared to the number of services under previous contracting arrangements.
These 210 services will deliver mediation across 979 locations in England and Wales, a significant increase in number from the current 740 locations.
National Family Mediation is a network of local not-for-profit family mediation services in England and Wales which offers help to couples, married or unmarried, who are in or have been through the process of separation and divorce.