Family Law Experts Welcome Move Amidst Proposed Court Fees Rise
A push towards alternative dispute resolution has been unveiled by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as proposed court fee raises in the family law courts opens its consultation.
The MoJ has launched a new voucher scheme for family law cases, providing up to £500 towards mediation costs for 2000 families in an initial trial. The vouchers are designed to support families and couples to settle their issues outside of court, signalling further encouragement from the court system in favour of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The news comes at the same time the MoJ announced a consultation to increase court fees by around 8% for the family courts, which is set to raise an extra £17m a year. The income threshold is also set to increase in line with the fees.
Family law specialists at leading national law firm have welcomed the move, saying it’s a step forward in letting families know about ADR and helping a court system facing a massive backlog.
Expert Opinion“Court fees in family law cases are on the up, which was perhaps inevitable given that they’ve stayed static for so very long – however there will also be increased assistance for those who are eligible.
“The exciting news that the Ministry of Justice is introducing these mediation vouchers is really positive. It’s a good way of streamlining the family law process, plus it raises awareness of mediation and ADR in general.
“Mediation is an alternative way of resolving a family dispute – the two of you get together with an independent person to try and resolve your difficulties and reach an agreement. The thought process behind it is that if you reach an agreement directly, it’s more likely to stick and also you avoid the protracted financial and emotional cost of court proceedings.
“Mediation is not to be confused with reconciliation or relationship counselling – it’s not about getting back together, it’s about splitting up amicably. While there are cynics about the process, mediation is worth doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a children or finance case, whether it’s straight forward or complex or indeed how big or small the issue is – it’s still worth a shot.” Zahra Pabani - Partner