Organisers of a
Government-funded scheme say it is successfully diverting separated parents away
from courtroom battles and helping them negotiate instead, enabling them to
better support their children.
The At-Court Mediation
project, now half way into its year-long pilot, helps parents who have been
separated for more than 2 years, and who are currently undergoing court
processes over child-related issues.
It is being delivered by National Family Mediation
(NFM) whose specialist mediators are experienced in
helping separated couples negotiate long-term arrangements for children,
property and finance. Funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, it
operates in three pilot areas: Herefordshire, Berkshire and West Yorkshire,
providing mediation at family courts, and one-to-one support to reduce conflict
'At-Court Mediation is
demonstrating clearly 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
positive way,' says Jane Robey
, NFM Chief Executive.
'Over 90 per cent of
couples who have taken part in an initial mediation awareness meeting have
embraced it, moving on to engage in full mediation to find long-term solutions
to their disagreements. Some of those who are benefitting from this project have
previously attended family courts dozens of times, their cases remaining
deadlocked and wrought with heartache, until these new ways of working were
introduced to them.
The interests of
children and young people are easily forgotten in the heat of a protracted court
room battle. This project is helping parents seriously consider how they
communicate with and react to each other and, crucially, the impact all this has
on their children.'
When the project
launched in March, Department for Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:
'Break-ups can be tough, and when couples do split up we want to make sure that
children and families get the help they need. That is why we are investing £10m
in projects like these across the country to help thousands of couples work
together as parents even when they are no longer together.'
Funding for the project,
making it free to users, comes from The Department for Work and Pensions
Innovation Fund: Help and Support for Separated Families. NFM works together
with judges, The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, legal
advisors and other local stakeholders to deliver the project.