To help incentivise more families to use mediation to resolve parenting disputes, the UK Government recently launched a £500 family mediation voucher scheme. Here in Australia, genuinely attempting mediation is generally compulsory in parenting matters before you can bring an application in the family courts. In the UK, only an initial mediation intake and assessment meeting is necessary, not participation in the actual process. So will mediation vouchers help encourage people to use family mediation? And could a similar scheme here help more Australians to utilise family mediation services?
Costs of mediation
In Australia, the costs of mediation vary greatly depending on the provider. For some eligible people it may actually be free. There are also community-based family law mediation providers who have sliding scales for fees depending on your capacity to pay. It may also be possible to obtain one free hour of family dispute resolution through Family Relationship Centres around the country. Subsequent hours are then charged at rates that vary according to income. (Make sure you let your mediation provider know if financial hardship is an issue to learn what their options are.)
It’s certainly possible that people’s lack of awareness about the cost of family mediation might prevent them from seeking out family mediation services or from engaging with it significantly. It may prevent people considering beginning parenting litigation if they perceive that the costs of initial compulsory FDR mediation are going to be arduous, on top of potential litigation expenses. But a mediation incentivisation scheme could also encourage more voluntary takeup of mediation–it’s not just for people who are proceeding towards litigation.
As such a Government incentive seems like a good idea.
Are UK mediation vouchers a success?
It’s early days so it’s not yet clear what impact the UK’s £1 million voucher drive will have on their court logjams. But initial reports from the mediation industry there are suggesting that “a high percentage rate of successfully mediated agreements in cases where a voucher was used. There are also signs that most who took advantage of a voucher concluded they had no need to take their dispute to a court after all.”
The UK mediation vouchers can’t be used for the initial compulsory mediation information and assessment meeting (known as the MIAM), nor can the vouchers be used towards costs of drafting documents.
In Australia, mediation with a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner is compulsory before parenting litigation can be undertaken (though there are exceptions). As part of the UK’s current family law reform, the Government there is considering similarly making family mediation compulsory before litigation.
Source: Family Law UK
If you would like assistance arranging mediation for your family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.