Family law experts in Yorkshire welcome introduction of vouchers for mediation

Family law experts in Yorkshire welcome introduction of vouchers for mediation

Family law specialists from Yorkshire firms Taylor&Emmet and Clarion have welcomed the introduction of a new voucher scheme that will enable more local couples to access mediation.

Vouchers are now being offered by the Ministry of Justice, up to the value of £500, for participants in family mediation who are not eligible for legal aid.

According to Taylor&Emmet, while free mediation is available to individuals who qualify for legal aid, if their partner is funding the mediation privately, they are responsible for their fees from the second session onwards, which can cause disengagement.

Using the voucher scheme, the private client can access additional funding, allowing them to continue with the process. In some circumstances, this may mean another two or three mediation sessions can be undertaken before payment is required and, in many cases, this would be sufficient to resolve the issues.

In cases where both parties are funding a separation privately, pre-mediation meetings would be payable at £108 each, before the voucher could be applied. This should then fund two sessions, or one longer meeting, as required.

The Family Mediation Council has been allocated £1 million to administer the scheme, in a bid to reduce the costs of separation and keep couples out of the courts. Vouchers will be granted to participants in pre-mediation meetings and paid directly to mediators registered with the scheme.

Commenting on the news, Dawn Lowry, a family law expert in Taylor&Emmet’s Rotherham office and a qualified mediator, said: “There are huge delays in the family courts at present, so the introduction of mediation vouchers is a boost for separating couples wishing to move on with their lives. Not only will they save money, but they will also have the opportunity to reach a settlement that works for them, in a less stressful and confrontational environment.”

Justine Osmotherley, partner and head of Clarion’s family practice, which includes a Family Mediation Council-accredited mediator, said: “This is a really positive move which will help hundreds of families throughout Yorkshire who find themselves struggling to reach a solution in difficult situations following separation.”

“As a firm which has long been committed to the amicable resolution of disputes wherever possible, we are pleased to see the launch of this scheme. We are delighted to be extending our services at Clarion to include mediation with the recent recruitment of Sarah Manning, an accredited mediator who has eight years of mediation experience.”

John Taylor, chair of the Family Mediation Council, said: “This government investment in mediation is much welcomed by the Family Mediation Council. It will help separated families agree solutions that are best for their children, taking into account what is going to be important for them as they grow up. Family mediation is a proven, cost-effective way to resolve differences following separation. This voucher scheme will make it even more accessible and will help families resolve issues for themselves, without having to go to court.”

Lowry added: “The average legal fees associated with taking children proceedings to court range from £3,000 to £5,000, depending on their complexity. Mediation was already a cost-effective alternative for separating couples willing to enter into meaningful discussions about the future of their family, but the new voucher scheme will significantly reduce the costs further and we urge private clients to give it serious consideration.”

Pictured: Taylor&Emmet head of family law Michaela Evans and mediator Dawn Lowry; and Justine Osmotherley of Clarion
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Mark Dugdale

Mark is the Editor of Yorkshire Legal. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk