Thousands more separating parents to be given £500 mediation vouchers to help them resolve divorce disputes away from expensive and stressful courtroom battles, Dominic Raab has announced.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Government was providing £5.4m of extra funding for 10,200 more vouchers, on top of the 8,400 already used, to extend the scheme until next year.
The vouchers will be given to divorcing couples to help them find mutually agreeable solutions to disputes, such as contact arrangements for children, and to free up space in the family courts.
Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of cases reach whole or partial agreements, survey research suggests, helping to spare parents and children the anxiety of often lengthy and acrimonious arguments in court.
The new cash more than doubles the investment into the initiative since it launched in March 2021, with total funding now standing at £8.7m.
Mr Raab, who is also the Justice Secretary, said: “We are investing over £5m this year alone to help more families to resolve their disputes without the stress and trauma of lengthy courtroom battles.
“Mediation protects children, by removing the bitterness of parental disputes from the amplifying effect of a courtroom – and allows the family courts to focus on adjudicating cases with serious safeguarding concerns, including domestic abuse.”
Mediation sees separating couples working through their differences, led by a trained and accredited mediator, to reach agreements they are both prepared to accept, for example on splitting assets and arranging child contact times, rather than having a judge decide.
Preliminary research from the Family Mediation Council (FMC), which runs the scheme, suggested 65 percent of the first 2,800 completed cases reached either a whole or partial agreement away from court, while a further three percent only attended court to formalise their agreement.
It also showed 50 percent of participants would not have attempted mediation without the financial incentive offered by the scheme.
Without the vouchers, mediation sessions would normally be charged for, unless one of the couple has access to legal aid.
The extra funding announced by Mr Raab will extend the scheme to March 2023.