court system has an ace to play to help salvage government plans to increase the
take-up of family mediation, says a leading family charity after new official
data showed mediation has yet to return to pre-legal aid cut
of Justice figures show fewer separating couples now attend family mediation
than before the devastating legal aid changes of 2013, despite government
measures of the past 12 months aimed at encouraging people to seek settlements
away from courtrooms.
'In their bid
to boost the take-up of mediation, Ministers have already played a number of
cards yet the national mediation data remains doggedly low,' said Jane Robey,
CEO of National Family Mediation (NFM).
right to seek culture change so that mediation becomes the first port of call
for divorcing couples.
judges must be more willing to embrace mediation, using the powers they already
have to direct people who come before courts towards alternative means of
Ministers to bang the drum for mediation, and to join up with other government
departments to do so. For the past year the Department for Work and Pensions has
been funding NFM’s pilot ‘at court mediation’ project, which helps
parents who have been separated for more than two years and are currently in the
family court system to suspend legal proceedings and meet specialist mediators
to negotiate long-term arrangements for children, property and finance.
successful project shows that couples who have become entrenched in conflict
can, with the right help, find an exit from the courtroom drama and move on in a
across the country need to learn from this project and follow suit. It’s an ace
that can be played to help salvage the attainment of government Ministers’
The new legal aid
mediation data for January to March 2015, issued by the Ministry of Justice,
shows that whilst the number of mediation starts is up on
previous quarters, it has not yet returned to the higher levels before the
introduction of 2013’s LASPO Act. It also shows a decline in the national
success rate of mediation compared with the same quarter in
'The data can
be seen as evidence that many separating couples simply see the compulsory
mediation information meeting as a hoop to jump through on the way to court,' added Jane Robey.
Last month the UK’s
most senior judge, Lord Neuberger, said mediation is particularly suitable for
'ordinary people' and 'average citizens'
in the current economic climate.
In April 2014
the government made it compulsory for couples to attend a mediation information
meeting before they could apply for a court order, and have since begun a scheme
making a mediation session free for both parties where only one is legally
The data can be downloaded here.