What you need to know about the government’s mediation voucher scheme
Who pays for family mediation?
Family mediation is one of the few areas of family law where legal aid is still available. However, this is means tested and only a minority of couples qualify under the scheme.
Those couples who wish to mediate but do not qualify for legal aid will normally be required to fund the cost of mediation themselves. The mediator will assist the couple to determine who should pay for the mediation in advance of the joint sessions. Most couples opt to share liability for the fees on a 50:50 basis but that is not always appropriate (for example, where one participant is not working. The voucher scheme aims to help those couples.
What is a mediation voucher?
It is a voucher worth £500 (inclusive of VAT) per couple towards the cost of mediation. The funds are provided by the Ministry of Justice, but the scheme is administered by the Family Mediation Council.
The scheme was introduced in March 2021 to encourage separating/divorcing couples to attempt family mediation and divert them from the court system, following the huge backlog of family law cases waiting to be heard, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and lockdown.
The scheme has seen a 69% success rate with 13,500 families leaving the mediation process with either a complete or partial resolution of the issues between them.
Are all family mediators taking part in the scheme?
Not all mediators are participating in the scheme so, if your client would like to apply for a voucher, either you or your client will need to contact your preferred mediator/s to check that they have registered for the scheme before making a referral. Here at RWK Goodman both Jayne and Joanna are participating in the scheme.
Who is eligible for a voucher?
Anyone who is taking part in a mediation which includes discussion about child arrangements. Clients taking part in a mediation about children and finances are eligible but not those taking part in a mediation purely about finances. It is not means tested.
How does my client apply?
The mediator will apply for them as long as the couple both consent. The FMC require a very precise wording of consent and our mediators will send this to the couple individually so that they can copy and paste it into an email.
Can my client use the voucher for the MIAM?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use the voucher for the MIAM, only for the joint mediation sessions.
Are there any strings attached?
Participants are encouraged to complete a short questionnaire at the conclusion of the mediation to assist with the government’s evaluation of the scheme, but this is not compulsory.
Are mediation vouchers still available?
Initially, the government only made £1 million available for this scheme. However, the funds have been topped up several times since March 2021 and the government has recently announced that the scheme will run for a further two years until 2025.