Is family mediation free?
During separation and/or divorce, finances often become critical for both parties. Legal costs, the cost of running two homes and all of the other, unplanned for expenses can be an incredible burden. With this in mind, the thought of having to pay for the legal process of a divorce or a permanent separation can be incredibly daunting.
The family courts are extremely busy, as such it can take a long time to get cases through and, as is quite widely recognised, it is a costly process. Currently, UK courts focus their efforts on couples resolving matters without having to enter the court process. This includes matters concerning any children (where they will live, how they will be co-parented etc) as well as how to resolve their financial and property matters.
Because of this, courts will ‘expect’ couples to at least attempt mediation before they take their cases to court in the hope that through mediation, they can resolve their issues. This is a stipulation in any case where legal aid will be claimed by either party. There are exceptions to this ‘rule’, often when there is evidence of prior domestic violence, in which case courts will accept that mediation is not suitable.
So, with the courts insisting that couples attempt mediation, is it a free service? Well the simple answer to that is, ‘no’. Having said that, for those finding themselves in financial hardship there may be assistance in the form of legal aid. If a person qualifies for legal aid then yes, in their circumstances the whole mediation process is provided to them cost free. When one party qualifies for legal aid, then part of the mediation service (the initial meeting with the mediator and first joint session) is also provided cost free for the person that does not qualify.
The give you an indication as to whether you qualify for legal aid then there is a good tool here for you to try.
For those that are not covered by legal aid then there is a cost to mediation. Even a non-profit organisation such as ourselves have overheads so we must charge. Having said that, we ensure our prices are kept as low as possible and that our fees are quite clearly published in an easy to read/understand manner (no hidden VAT charges).
Mediation has been proved time and time again to be the most cost effective, swift and least confrontational method for people to resolve their pressing issues and it is the only process whereby both parties maintain complete control over what is decided during the process.
Visit our fees page for more details on the costs involved and for more detail on legal aid eligibility.