Why we are urging more separating couples and single parents to consider mediation before going to court

Mediation offers a faster, cheaper way to agree the terms of divorce, separation or child contact, avoiding upsetting and expensive court battles; but a lack of awareness and understanding means thousands of people are missing out. That's why we want to encourage more people to give mediation a go.

With more than 100,000 couples filing for divorce each year, and one in three children likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16, we are keen to raise awareness about the positive benefits of family mediation.

One of the most persuasive reasons to give mediation a go is the financial aspect. Separating couples going through the courts will spend on average between £5,000 and £20,000 each. A series of mediation sessions however costs around £800 – a fraction of the expense and a small price to pay for a fair and lasting outcome.

As mediation is one of the few areas still funded by Legal Aid, it is even free for people on the lowest incomes, significantly easing the financial burden for families who are already struggling.

Sadly, even though the government favours non-dispute resolution for family issues, many people still aren’t aware of mediation, and even more misunderstand its purpose. “During separation, many people feel anger towards their ex-partner and believe that going to court is the only way to have their say and get the outcome they want.” Gemma Walpole, CEO of Norfolk Family Mediation Service explains. “However, separation is not a battle. The court process can be distressing and there are no winners, especially when there are children involved.”

Mediation helps people discuss issues calmly and confidentially, enabling them to address the things that matter to them, and to reach an agreement that works for everyone. Children are often the only common ground left in a failed relationship, so mediation encourages parents to put their children’s needs first, which can be a powerful and positive way to reach a resolution. The success rate is an inspiring 80%, with couples often reaching agreement in just two or three sessions.

But despite the numerous benefits, the Ministry of Justice found that in 2015, just 6% of applicants had attempted mediation before starting court proceedings.

So why aren’t more people choosing to give mediation a go?

“A common misconception is that mediation is a form of counselling”, says Norfolk Family Mediation Service mediator Debbie Wahle.  “Family mediation is not therapy, nor is it about getting couples back together. When a relationship breaks down, we are here to help people sort out the practical aspects of their separation, such as how often a child should see a parent, or how to divide money or property fairly.”

Another common myth is that mediation is only for married couples or those who have just separated.

“People often come to our services months or even years after their divorce or separation,” says Debbie. “They may have a new partner, be moving away, or want to change how much time they spend with their children. Whatever the situation, the door to mediation is always open.”

The breakdown of a relationship is one of the most difficult experiences an individual will go through and it's common for couples to find it hard to communicate after separation. Sadly, a court battle can leave everyone involved emotionally and financially drained. Mediation can offer a calmer, cheaper, altogether less distressing way forward.

“As family mediation services, many of which are charities, we are here to help,” concludes Gemma. “But we can’t provide the support people need and deserve if they aren’t aware that we exist. That's why we must raise awareness of mediation and the great benefits it can bring”.

You can help us spread the word about the benefits of family mediation; here's how:

  • Get in touch on 01603 620588 or to arrange a talk or briefing for your commuity group or referral service

  • Start a conversation on social media with the hashtag #givemediationago

  • Request some leaflets to display in your school, work place or community space

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

  • Tell a friend or family member who may need our support to get in touch today