The government is aiming to reduce stressful divorce battles and ensure that couples separate “in the least damaging way” by promoting the use of mediation services in England and Wales.
Justice minster Simon Hughes confirmed on Thursday that couples must attend mandatory sessions with an expert if they have applied for a court order relating to a financial matter or a child. He said this would be the best “for everyone involved” and would help reduce costs as the government prepares to cut legal aid by £220m during the next few years.
According to new figures, taxpayers have to pay an average cost of £4,000 in legal aid for each person when matters are settled through the courts. This figure is reduced to an estimated £500 when mediation is used to resolve private family disputes arising from a relationship breakdown.
The new scheme that is being passed through Parliament and features on the Children and Families bill will see trained mediators talk to couples over a short period. The government hopes this will facilitate lasting agreements that could then become a legally binding court order.
Mr Hughes added: “When people separate we want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children. That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them.”
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