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Project is helping warring couples away from court battles to negotiate instead

Date:17 SEP 2014
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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 between couples.

'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.