Can I get family mediation for free?
Family mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR are methods that you can use to try and resolve disputes without having to go to Court. Family mediation itself involves the use of an independent third party, your mediator, who will support you to resolve issues around child arrangements and/or financial arrangements following separation or divorce. Your mediator is specially trained to deal with these disputes and should be “Accredited” by the Family Mediation Council. All our mediators at DMS are accredited and adhere to the FMC’s Code of Practice.
At mediation you can expect to work through the issues you are facing in a safe and confidential environment. Unlike Court, at mediation you will make the decisions – your mediator will never make the decisions for you or tell you what to or what not to do. Together you will hopefully be able to reach a proposed arrangement that works for everyone involved. Once you are happy with a solution you can convert this into a legally binding arrangement – your mediator will explain to you how to do this.
There are lots of benefits in using family mediation rather than going to Court. In fact, there has been an encouraging push by the Ministry of Justice for people experiencing family disputes to use it. Firstly, people are not able to make an application to Court without first having at least considered mediation by attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). You can book your MIAM here. Sometimes people will be exempt from this requirement, such as victims of domestic abuse. You can read more about the exemptions here. Secondly, which is explained in further detail below, is the recent introduction of the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme – a financial contribution of £500 to each family attending family mediation to discuss child arrangements.
The key benefits of family mediation are:
- It is far quicker, cheaper, and less stressful than going to Court.
- You can achieve workable arrangements that can be made legally binding relating to child arrangement, parenting, finances, assets and property.
- It allows for you to be in control of the decision making and put your family first.
How much does family mediation cost?
Family mediation is not free of charge, but there are funding options available. There are currently three ways of paying for family mediation which are dependent on your circumstances. Each of these are detailed below.
Private family mediation client
The private costs of mediation vary from practice to practice. The Family Mediation Council estimate that registered mediators with the FMC charge (on average) £140 per person per hour for mediation. At Direct Mediation Services, we charge £120 per person per hour (office hours). We operate on a pay as you go basis, meaning that you will pay for each session you attend in advance; you will not have one bill at the end. This gives you some control over the funding of your mediation process and you can work with your mediator to discuss what is workable for you.
Legal Aid for family mediation
Legal Aid is available for family mediation. Direct Mediation Services have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency, and so are pleased to be able to offer this service. There are two routes to qualifying for Legal Aid. We have written a more detailed post about this, which can be accessed here, but in short:
- If you receive a qualifying welfare benefit such as Universal Credit, Income-Based ESA/JSA, Income Support, then you may qualify for Legal Aid.
- If you receive a low income (this is a disposable income of less than £733 per month), then you may qualify for Legal Aid.
If you qualify for Legal Aid, then your fees will be covered for:
- Your Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MAIM)
- Your joint mediation sessions
- The costs of drafting legal documents, such as Parenting Plans, Open Financial Statements, or Memorandums of Understanding.
Furthermore, your Legal Aid can also provide some funding to the other person in your mediation, even if they do not qualify. Legal Aid will cover the costs of the other person’s MIAM and the first hour of mediation.
It is easy to apply for Legal Aid at Direct Mediation Services; all you need to do is fill out an online form and send in evidence (for example, a screenshot of your Universal Credit entitlement). We will do the rest.
The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme
In March 2021, the Ministry of Justice announced a new innovative funding option for people wishing to use family mediation. The voucher scheme contributes up to £500 per family for the costs of mediation relating to child arrangements. Effectively, this means that (with DMS) you get just over 2 hours of free mediation.
The voucher scheme was initially set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in an attempt to reduce the strain on the Family Court and as part of the active push for families to use family mediation to resolve matters. We are pleased that the voucher scheme is continuing to be extended.
The voucher scheme is not income based and so an award of it does not take into account your personal finances. Unlike Legal Aid, the voucher scheme will apply to almost all cases involving children. The voucher scheme does not cover cases that are solely relating to financial arrangements.
When you attend your MIAM your mediator will explain the voucher scheme to you and ask for your consent. That’s really all you have to do; we take care of the rest. Our team will apply for the voucher on your behalf. As the voucher does not cover MIAMs, you will need to cover the costs for this either privately or through Legal Aid (Yes, you can still apply for the voucher if you are a Legal Aid client!) Once you have both attended MIAMs, mediation sessions can start. You can read more about the mediation process here.
The voucher scheme can only be applied for once, you cannot get it twice. It is also important to know that the voucher scheme is still indefinite and there is no guarantee that it is here to stay. Your mediator will explain to you during the MIAM if the voucher scheme is available to you. If you have any questions about the voucher scheme, you can contact the office on 0113 468 9593 or here.
You can read more about family mediation and other family related issues on our blog.
Final thoughts about free mediation
Whilst family mediation is not free, there is Legal Aid and funding available to support you in paying the costs. Fortunately, Legal Aid remains available for family mediation meaning that your finances should not be a barrier to you accessing the service. Similarly, the voucher scheme offers some positive financial help for all families who are finding challenges in sorting out arrangements for their children.
Want to known about funding for family mediation?
You can get in touch with Direct Mediation Services by calling 0113 4689593, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form below for a free call back.
By completing this form you consent to Direct Mediation Services holding the information you provide us about you in accordance with our Privacy notice. By submitting your email address and telephone number to us you consent to us contacting you in order to enable us to deal with your query. Calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is family mediation free?
No, but there is financial support and funding available. If you are in receipt of welfare benefits or a low income you can apply for Legal Aid. LA will cover all your costs. Additionally, the family mediation voucher scheme is available to parents coming to mediation about child arrangements. The voucher scheme provides a contribution of £500 toward costs of mediation.
Do I have to pay all the costs in family mediation?
At DMS each participant covers their own costs. Our private fees are £120 per person per hour. Therefore, a one-hour joint session costs £240 – but this is split between the two participants.
What happens if I qualify for Legal Aid but my ex-partner doesn’t?
Your Legal Aid will cover all your mediation costs. If your ex-partner does not qualify then they will be a private client. In these circumstances, your Legal Aid will cover their MIAM and the first hour of joint mediation. Your ex-partner will then need to begin paying privately. However, don’t forget that you can still apply for the voucher scheme so this can support in the costs too!
Where is my nearest family mediator?
Direct Mediation Services are pleased to offer our services across England and Wales. We also offer virtual appointments which means that you do not need to travel and can mediate from wherever you are most comfortable.
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