Tisshaws in Haywards Heath welcomes scheme to give divorcing parents £500 for mediation
Tisshaws Family Law Solicitors in Haywards Heath has welcomed a £1million government scheme to give separating parents vouchers for mediation.
The government is helping families resolve issues relating to children by providing contributions of up to £500 per family.
Family Mediation Council Accredited (FMCA) mediators will provide the service and the fund will reduce mediation costs for 2,000 families.
“Tisshaws is really behind the government scheme,” said Hana Khodabocus, associate solicitor and mediator at Tisshaws.
“We fully support their attempts to promote mediation and their emphasis on exploring alternative dispute resolution options.”
Hana said that mediation is a more open and transparent process than going to court or instructing solicitors to handle disputes.
It is also less adversarial, she said, because it encourages parents to engage with each other.
“Mediation would involve the parents participating in sessions together with a mediator,” said Hana, adding that parents do not necessarily need to be in the same room physically or online.
“They can be in separate rooms and the mediator would move between them in what is known as shuttle mediation,” she said.
It usually takes three to five meetings to reach a full conclusion but this can vary from case to case.
Typical issues include: how much time children spend with each parent after they have separated, whether children should live mainly with one parent, how the parents’ assets are divided after a divorce, child maintenance and other financial matters.
“I think the government is trying to reduce the backlogs at court,” Hana said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has created huge pressures on the court system.
She said that in local courts it could take 12 to 17 weeks from an application being filed to getting a hearing date.
By helping with costs to promote mediation, the government is helping families resolve disputes more quickly and amicably, which will benefit the children, she added.
But, Hana said, the mediation voucher scheme is only available to parties who have attended their first mediation appointment after March 26.
The dispute must also involve a child and only accredited mediators can apply for the vouchers, usually at the end of the process.
“I and my colleagues at Tisshaws would be able to refer clients to accredited mediators that we know of in the local area,” said Hana, who is a trained Resolution Family Mediator, but not accredited yet.
She also said that if the parents attend mediation with an accredited mediator and reach an agreement, they could return to Tisshaws who would formalise the decisions they made.
And Tisshaws could directly help those without children who were considering mediation, she said.
“We have another mediator joining the firm in the summer,” Hana added.
“Tisshaws is really onboard with trying to promote alternative dispute resolution.”
Hana said that Tisshaws has redesigned its conference room to be Covid secure with plastic screens separating tables and good ventilation, which will allow safe in-house mediation.
The company currently offers online mediation via Zoom calls.
John Taylor, chairman of the Family Mediation Council said: “This government investment in mediation is much welcomed by the Family Mediation Council.
“It will help separated families agree solutions that are best for their children, taking into account what is going to be important for them as they grow up.”
Find out more at www.gov.uk/guidance/family-mediation-voucher-scheme or visit www.tisshawssolicitors.co.uk.