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In the first of a two-part blog series looking at the cost of mediation, Gemma Hope explains the different options available to clients.
Family mediation is a voluntary process where an independent, professionally trained mediator helps separating couples find solutions to issues that arise as a result of divorce or separation. It is often a very cost-effective option for separating couples, but who pays for the costs of mediation?
You may qualify for publicly funded support to help with mediation costs. Whilst there have been significant cuts to this in recent years it is still available to help towards the costs of mediation in some circumstances. It is means tested, so you must have a very low/no income to qualify and capital means is also assessed.
You can check if you are eligible online using the eligibility calculator on the gov.uk website.
At Family Law Partner’s do not provide publicly funded mediation services. If you are eligible you can find mediators that can provide mediation funded this way on the Find Your Local Mediator page on the Family Mediation Council website.
The government is currently investing in family mediation, to support families to resolve issues relating to children. Under the government scheme the Ministry of Justice are providing contributions of up to £500 per family towards mediation costs to resolve issues relating to children following parental separation.
Mediation under the voucher scheme is provided by Family Mediation Council Accredited mediators.
On attendance at your initial one to one meeting with a mediator (known as a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, or ‘MIAM’) the mediator will assess the issues which you seek to resolve to see if they are suitable for mediation and meet the eligibility requirements for the voucher scheme.
The mediation voucher is restricted to assisting with funding of mediation sessions only, so you will have to pay for your Mediation Information Assessment Meeting first, unless you are eligible for publicly funded support.
The case types specified below are eligible for a mediation voucher:
If you decide to proceed with mediation, and are eligible for the voucher, your mediator will apply for the voucher funding and it will be paid directly to them once all mediation sessions are concluded. You will not receive a physical voucher and you will not need to make an application for it.
Vouchers are limited in number and will be offered to eligible parties until they are no longer available. Your mediator will let you know if there are vouchers available.
In order to take part in the scheme you will be asked to confirm that you have:
You can only claim once per family/ case for a one-off contribution of up to £500 towards your mediation costs.
You can find more information about the scheme on our website: Family Mediators Welcome Government Voucher Scheme.
At the start of the mediation process you will need to be clear on how the costs will be paid. You will have the costs of the mediation sessions themselves to cover as well as any work that the mediator needs to do outside of the sessions, such as reviewing financial information to help facilitate discussions in relation to the terms of a financial settlement and/or the drafting the outcome documents.
The mediator will let you know what their fees/hourly rates are at the outset. You may also have other costs to factor in such as the costs of expert reports (e.g. a surveyor’s report to value a property or a pension report to advise on pensions) and/or the costs of getting any outcome made legally binding.
You will need to be clear on how these costs are to be covered. You may decide the costs are split 50/50 between you, this is what most separating couples using mediation do. There may be savings that you both decide are to be set aside to cover the costs for both of you. It may be that it is decided that one of you will cover all the costs, or that one of you will cover the costs in the first instance on the basis these costs are paid back as part of the overall financial agreement.
For more information on our mediation services and guidance, please refer to our blog which covers different topics about mediation.
If you would like to find out more or arrange mediation with one of our specialist family law mediators please contact us.
Gemma Hope is a Director, Specialist Family Law Solicitor, Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer in our Brighton team.