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MoJ mediation report tells us ‘little that’s new’

National Family Mediation says the source of referrals to family mediation have 'flipped' since the legal aid cuts

2 February 2015

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A new Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report into family mediation research provides little the profession doesn't already know, says National Family Mediation (NFM).

The report, Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and mediation in private family law disputes: Quantitative Findings, was published by the MoJ on 29 January.

Commenting on its findings, the chief executive of the largest of provider of family mediation in England and Wales, Jane Robey, said that the new report could have proved a useful addition to the body of evidence being collected by government as it seeks to increase the take-up of family mediation. She said, however, "detailed statistics aside, it doesn't tell us a huge amount we didn't already know."

Robey continued: "The finding that self-referrals to MIAMs and mediations have become more common than referrals through solicitors confirms our own previously-published research," added Robey. "As we have previously stated, the source of referrals to family mediation have flipped on their head since the legal aid cuts, and we now have more people coming to us of their own accord than those referred by a lawyer."

Robey added that increasing people are researching their options once they've decided to separate. "There is no doubt that legal aid cuts have led to many people shunning the 'traditional' route of heading off to the solicitor's office - instead they are trying family mediation first. We have seen the evidence of this shift: visits to our website and phone calls to our national office from people seeking advice have more than doubled since the legal aid cuts were introduced."

All-party engagement

Robey continued that the number of people seeking non-profit NFM services each month is greater than nationwide numbers suggested in the report, which only takes private profit-making mediators into account.

The report also refers to the need for respondents, as well as applicants, to be willing to engage with mediation. "Whilst we frequently offer guidance to applicants whose ex is initially unwilling to take part in mediation - and have published some online information - the government will need to continue to consider measures that would make it compulsory for the respondent to take part in mediation," said Robey.

"As the largest provider of family mediation, NFM maintains its own statistical records of MIAMs, conversions, settlement rates and so on. We look forward to continued collaboration with the government on all aspect of the drive to ensure more couples and children reap the benefits of family mediation."

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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Marriage & Civil partnership ADR