Going through a divorce can be a traumatic experience but there is some good news for divorcing couples that comes in the form of changes to mediation funding.
Many individuals on low incomes are entitled to Legal Aid to fund their attendance at mediation to agree children and financial arrangements on separation. However, one of the major problems that many couples find when applying for help from Legal Aid for mediation under the current law is that if only one individual is on a low enough income to receive Legal Aid, the other is still required to pay.
Positive changes have been announced by Justice Minster, Simon Hughes, to the regulations which should encourage more couples to go through mediation rather than the busy court system.
In the future, if only one of the parties is entitled to Legal Aid the entire mediation session will be covered, so as not to deter the other party. A group of experts has been set up to ensure that the practices involved during mediation sessions are focussed on the best outcome for any children who are unwittingly involved in the separation. An entire overhaul of the Legal Aid Agency is also underway to ensure they work with mediation providers to make improvements to the services available to divorcing couples looking for a peaceful solution to their separation.
Options for reforming the management of the mediation sector are also being explored to ensure the industry is supplying a high level of mediation services. Additional funding is also going to raising awareness of mediation and its benefits. Mediation can often provide money saving opportunities for couples and the courts, save time and encourage better future relationships between divorcing couples.
David Kirkman, a solicitor at Jordans specialising in family law, comments that this is a “positive, but modest, development that should help more couples to reach agreements about children and finances”. He explains that “mediation is very helpful for many couples, although it is not right for anyone, and legal advice from independent solicitors is always recommended”.
These changes are a positive step forward to making divorce a less stressful and cheaper solution in the event of a breakdown in a relationship. Mediation is an affordable and less confrontational choice for divorcing couples who wish to stay amicable and the courts, as well as separating couples, could save a lot of money.