Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 16th July 2021.

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Photo of Mark Jenkinson Mark Jenkinson Conservative, Workington

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans he has to reduce the number of separation and divorce proceedings that end up in the family court system; and what steps he is taking to increase the use of mediation services.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Divorce and dissolution are a fundamental change of legal status that may have implications for people’s rights and responsibilities, for matters such as property and inheritance, and for the families involved. Since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, divorce has always been a court process and only the court can legally end a marriage.

However, divorcing couples can use family mediation to reach agreement about the arrangements for any children and for dividing their financial assets, rather than asking the court to decide these matters.

This government is committed to supporting more families to resolve issues such as these through mediation, where appropriate. On 26 March 2021, a £1m Family Mediation Voucher Scheme was launched by the MoJ, to encourage and better support families to use mediation and resolve disputes outside of court.

The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme is currently available in private law children cases where there are no safeguarding concerns and the case is deemed suitable for mediation. The scheme will offer over 2,000 families a financial contribution of up to £500 towards their mediation costs, giving these families the opportunity to resolve their disputes with the assistance of a trained mediator. Mediation Vouchers are offered, at the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to ensure families are provided with information regarding the support they can get, before they decide to pursue their matters in the family court.

We are closely monitoring the uptake and impact of the scheme and are actively considering what more could be done to encourage parties to consider mediation as an alternative to court, including better signposting of mediation as part of the implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

This government will continue to look at how the benefits of mediation can be better communicated, in order to encourage wider use of mediation where cases are suitable to do so.

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