£500 Mediation Voucher
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched a voucher scheme which will provide a contribution of up to £500 towards the mediation costs for eligible cases, supporting people in resolving their family law disputes outside of court, where appropriate.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a process where a trained independent mediator helps you work out arrangements with another participant (e.g. an ex-partner) concerning children, finance or property.
The mediator is there to help you work through disagreements and find solutions that work for you both and explain how to make the agreement you reach legally binding, should you wish to do so.
When you make an application for a court order in relation to many types of family law disputes, you must show the court that you considered family mediation, by having attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (known as a MIAM), unless you are exempt.
How can I access mediation with Covid restrictions in place?
Mediation services have been operating safely throughout lockdown, mostly online. Your mediator will be able to explain how the process works, and ensure you can access their service.
What is the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?
The family mediation voucher scheme is a time-limited scheme, designed to support parties who may be able to resolve their family law disputes outside of court. The Government has set up the scheme in response to Covid-19 to support recovery in the family court and to encourage more people to consider mediation as a means of resolving their disputes, where appropriate. To support this, a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation will be provided, if eligible.
Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) are taking part in the voucher scheme.
Why might mediation be of benefit to me?
Family mediation lets you stay in control. Unlike in court, where a judge makes the decisions about child and financial arrangements, in mediation you and the other person/people decide what you agree to and what you don’t. When it comes to your children, mediation can help you put your child’s interest first.
Mediation can be less stressful and far quicker than going to court so can be an efficient way of resolving disagreements. If you cannot reach an agreement, you still have the right to go to court. You can also use family mediation after you made an application to the court.
It can be difficult for separated parents or other family members in dispute to talk to each other and work together to find solutions. Family mediation provides a safe and supported structure to sort out the best arrangements for children, as well as other considerations such as how to divide assets and money, and where you and your children will live.
Family mediation can also help when circumstances change which means you need to make new arrangements. For example, as children grow up, family mediators can help you agree on changes to arrangements for children without having to go to court.
Do I have to be in the same room as the person I am in mediation with?
In mediation, you can still work to find an agreement without being in the same room or space with the other person – you don’t have to spend time with the person you are in mediation with if you choose not to. Your mediator can help you find a way to resolve your disagreements without being in direct contact.
How do I apply for a mediation voucher?
At your MIAM, the mediator will discuss the voucher scheme with you if your case might be eligible. You will be offered a ‘voucher’ contribution, subject to suitability, case type and availability of the vouchers.
What is a MIAM?
Before making a court application for certain types of family law orders, you will be required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless you have a valid exemption.
A MIAM is a short meeting with a qualified mediator where you will be provided with information about mediation as a way of resolving your issues. The mediator will assess whether mediation is an appropriate option based on your individual circumstances. Both parties will need to attend a MIAM before undertaking mediation which can be attended together or separately.
Only mediators who hold ‘Family Mediation Council Accreditation’ can sign court forms to confirm that a MIAM has been attended or that certain exemptions apply.
Do I have to pay for a MIAM before I attend mediation?
If you or the other parent/person are eligible for legal aid you both will qualify for a free MIAM (with mediators that carry out legal aid work).
If neither of you are eligible for legal aid, you will have to pay for the MIAM. This is around £90 per person. Estimated fees may vary depending on your location and the experience of the mediator. Some mediators offer reductions if you’re unemployed or on a low income.
Can the mediation voucher be used to pay for a MIAM?
No, the use of the mediation voucher is restricted to assisting with funding of mediation sessions only. You will have to pay for your MIAM first, unless you are eligible for legal aid.
How do I know if I am eligible for a mediation voucher?
On attendance of a MIAM, a trained 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.
Not all cases are eligible under the scheme. The case types specified below are eligible for a mediation voucher:
- a dispute/application regarding a child
- a dispute/application regarding family financial matters where you are also involved in a dispute/application relating to a child
It is important to remember that mediation is only an option when both people agree to take part in it, so you and the other person will need to agree to mediate.
How will I receive the 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.
What do I have to do to take part in the scheme?
You will be asked to confirm that you have:
- asked the mediator to apply for the voucher
- not already applied for another voucher as part of the same scheme
- given consent to your mediator providing your necessary information to the Family Mediation Council. This includes your name, the bill for mediation services you receive from the mediator and some basic information about your case.
How many vouchers will I receive?
You can only claim once per family/ case for a one-off contribution of up to £500 towards your mediation costs.
If you have an application or dispute relating to a child and also have a financial issue application or dispute ongoing at the same time, you can still only receive up to £500.
If you make a second application and have already received a voucher, you will not be offered a second voucher under this scheme.
Will the voucher cover all my mediation costs?
This will depend on the rates set by your chosen mediator and how many mediation sessions are required. The voucher is intended to be a contribution towards mediation sessions. Your mediator will tell you their rates and how many sessions the voucher is likely to cover. As the total value of the voucher is £500, you may need to contribute to the overall cost of your sessions if you choose to continue with mediation.
Can I get a voucher if I am eligible for legal aid?
Yes, if you are eligible for legal aid you can still be eligible for a voucher.
The mediation voucher scheme is a one-off financial contribution of up to £500 and will not cover the cost of a MIAM. Legal aid will provide funding for the MIAM and all mediation sessions, if you are eligible.
At your MIAM, your FMC accredited mediator will talk through your options (including whether they are able to take on legal aid work).
Can I obtain a voucher if the other person in mediation is entitled to legal aid?
Yes, the vouchers are allocated per case.
If one person in that case is eligible for legal aid, the other person can still apply for a voucher to contribute toward their mediation costs. If the other person is eligible for legal aid but you are not then you will also be entitled to legal aid funding which will cover the cost of the MIAM and the a first mediation session.
Is the mediation voucher available for financial remedy issues?
If your issues solely relate to a financial remedy dispute/application you will not be able to obtain a voucher. However, if your issues relate to a child and to a financial remedy issue you can obtain a voucher, subject to availability.
How do I know if I am eligible for legal aid?
I have already attended a MIAM and didn’t get information about this scheme. Can I now attend mediation and get a voucher?
The mediation voucher scheme comes into effect on 26 March 2021. Vouchers can only be obtained where a MIAM has been attended on or after this date.
You will also be asked to complete a short monitoring questionnaire. Completing this is optional.
Your mediator will be required to provide some information about your case, such as whether you reach an agreement and whether you ask the court to formalise an agreement. The data provided will be anonymised before being used to provide information about the way in which the voucher scheme and the mediation services were used.
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