Separating parents in Northamptonshire urged to embrace mediation to avoid courtroom conflict

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January 22nd marks the start of Family Mediation Week

Parents living in Northamptonshire who have decided to separate or divorce in 2024 are being urged to embrace mediation to settle children, property and finance arrangements in a bid to avoid courtroom confrontation.

The call to action from NFM (National Family Mediation), which is the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales, coincides with the start of Family Mediation Week, which launched on January 22nd.

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According to the charity, many couples associate the breakdown of their relationship with conflict and expensive legal fees, but mediation allows families to agree a way forward in a far quicker, more cost-effective and less stressful way.

Sarah Hawkins - NFM CEOSarah Hawkins - NFM CEO
Sarah Hawkins - NFM CEO

Yet while mediation has grown in popularity over the last decade – with NFM supporting 77 families in Northamptonshire in 2023 alone – the charity says that many couples are unaware of its benefits, and also the funding support available.

“There has been a huge increase in the number of people embracing mediation to help reach agreements that work for all parties post separation or divorce,” explains Sarah Hawkins, CEO of NFM (National Family Mediation).

“Many couples want to remain as amicable as possible after they make the decision to split, especially where children are involved. Of course, that can also be hugely beneficial from a financial perspective.

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“However, there are still a significant number of people that simply don’t know that family mediation is an option for them, and so Family Mediation Week is a great way to spread the word and raise awareness of the help and support that is available to them – particularly the Government’s £500 Voucher Scheme.”

Sarah explained that as part of the scheme, couples who decide to split up can access up to £500, which can be used to fund mediation to discuss children matters using mediation providers such as NFM.

She added: “The breakdown of a relationship can be a particularly stressful time, and the decision to separate or divorce brings with it so many tough questions like who lives where, what will happen to the children, how will we sort money and even who will take the family pet.

“Family mediation is a process where an independent, professionally-trained mediator helps you work these things out, enabling you to avoid courtroom confrontation. Professional mediators help empower you to create long-term solutions for each individual’s set of circumstances, rather than leaving it to a court to make decisions on their family’s behalf.”

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Sarah explains that family mediation typically involves attending a series of face-to-face meetings together, either face-to-face or online. Discussions are facilitated by a professional, trained mediator who will help you identify the issues, find a workable solution and gain clarity about the next steps. The mediator will provide a written summary at the end of mediation.

Before any joint meetings, the mediator will have met with both parties to find out more about the issues that need resolving, give them more information about mediation and answer any questions or concerns they have about what happens next.

She added: “Our family mediators know that communicating after a separation is tough. So, they are skilled at helping people work through issues they have to consider. These include emotional, practical, legal, financial and technical things.

“Mediators working for our family mediation service are highly-skilled at helping when feelings are running high, at a time when co-operation is the last thing somebody expects from their ex.

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“The key message that I want to get out there as part of Family Mediation Week is that people don’t need to face this difficult time alone. There are mediators who can help to keep things amicable, and to find a solution and resolution for the problems at hand that genuinely works for all.”

Legal Aid remains available for family mediation.

Anyone wanting to know more about the benefits of family mediation can visit call 03004000636.