Mediation is still available through legal aid
Despite the misleading news by the legal profession, legal aid is still available for mediation.
Many couples going through a separation may be completely unaware that Legal Aid is in fact still available (depending upon their financial circumstances) for people who wish to take part in mediation.
Peter Flint, senior partner and head of the family department at law firm Lanyon Bowdler.
Mediation is an excellent way of resolving issues which arise once a relationship has broken down. It can be used to sort out arrangements for children, to assist parents in re-establishing communication with each other (for the benefit of the children), can resolve the financial issues arising out of the breakdown of the relationship, and so forth. Mediation is an alternative to having issues resolved by a Court, and at present it is a voluntary procedure involving the couple having a meeting or a series of meetings with a mediator whose job it is to work with the couple and assist them in resolving the various issues by agreement. Unlike Court proceedings, the decision making process lies not with the Judge but rather with the clients themselves.
Peter Flint, a highly experienced family mediator and solicitor with Shrewsbury law firm Lanyon Bowdler comments “A most unfortunate and possibly unforeseen consequence of the Government cuts in the availability of Legal Aid in family cases has been the dramatic reduction in estranged couples attempting to resolve their issues by agreement through the medium of mediation.
“Because of the significant reduction in mediation work, the last few months has seen a number of mediation services having to discontinue their businesses. These have included Mediation Works, a not for profit organisation operating in Shropshire and a number of other areas; and also the offices of National Family Mediation in Worcester and Hereford.”
Peter concludes “This may be due to the fact that family lawyers also have seen a reduction in their business as a result of the Legal Aid cuts and are therefore neglecting their duty to advise their clients of the mediation option for fear of losing the business. More likely is that people cannot afford to do so they are not consulting solicitors, but rather are attempting to deal with matters themselves via the Court process, when in fact Legal Aid is still available (depending upon their financial circumstances) for people who wish to take part in mediation.”