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Vouchers to prevent messy court divorces expanded by Government

by Cara Bentley
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A scheme in the UK giving £500 worth of professional meditation help to couples going through separation will be expanded following early signs of success, according to the Government. 

The Family Mediation vouchers, launched in March this year, aimed to help couples solve separation disputes outside of the court room, such as childcare and finances, to avoid stress, more damage to the relationship and expensive bills. It also aimed to help relieve pressure on family courts after the pandemic. 

The £1 million scheme will now get an additional £800,000 to help nearly 2,000 more families as early data from the Family Mediation Council, which runs the scheme, shows up to three quarters of participants have been helped to reach "full or partial agreement on their dispute".

The Ministry of Justice said mediation spares couples the "trauma" of "lengthy and costly courtroom battles" which can have "a damaging impact on children". It said around 130 vouchers were being used every week. 

The MoJ said trained and accredited mediators can help couples work through differences over splitting assets or child contact time rather than requiring a decision from a judge.

Under the voucher scheme a mediator will automatically claim back contributions from the Government.

Eligible cases are those families aiming to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children, such as child arrangement orders or financial disputes over a child's upbringing

The department said mediation was a "quicker and cheaper" way of resolving disputes and avoids the potential stress of attending courts.

It cited the example of the parents of a three-year-old boy who were able to avoid court by using the scheme to agree on future arrangements.

The parents did not trust each other and were sceptical about mediation, but the scheme helped them to talk about the child's best interests and develop healthier relationships.

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