Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Mediator plea to separating couples

January is a peak time for people seeking a divorce

Separating couples have been urged to consider third-party mediators in a bid to avoid "traumatic" courtroom battles at a time when the number of broken marriages is expected to peak.

The post-Christmas period sees enquiries about separation and divorce soar, with the first working day in January dubbed "Divorce Day" by the legal sector, said the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Last year, searches for divorce on the department's website nearly doubled in January.

The Government said it would pump a further £10 million into mediation services, which on average save publicly-funded clients £3,500 and take a quarter of the time.

Family justice minister Lord Thomas McNally said: "All too often money is wasted on expensive and traumatic court hearings that can take far too long to resolve - and that is why we want to help people to use mediation, a quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes."

Mediation services involve the use of an independent and qualified third-party to help couple's divide their assets or arrange child contact without going to court.

Legal advice from a solicitor can be part of the mediation process.

The new funding, which will bring the total spent in 2013 to £25 million, comes after changes to court processes last year which mean couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter attend a mediation assessment session first.

The average cost of resolving property and finance disputes caused by separation is roughly £500 through mediation for a publicly funded client, compared to £4,000 for issues settled through the courts.

And the average time for a mediated case is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases.

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