family-mediation-voucher

Understanding the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme: A Guide for UK Families

Family disputes can be emotionally and financially draining, especially when children are involved.

Recognising this, The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) introduced the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, a pivotal initiative to support families with children through these challenging times.

The Family Meditation Voucher scheme offers:

  • Financial assistance to families with children seeking mediation
  • Helps to reduce the strain of mediation costs
  • Encourages the resolution of disputes involving children outside the courtroom
  • Helps to make family mediation more accessible
  • Plays a critical role in promoting the welfare of children and ensuring their voices are heard through Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM).

The Family Mediation Voucher scheme plays a pivotal role in helping to facilitate a more amicable resolution process. It fosters a collaborative environment, enabling family members to work together towards a sustainable solution outside the court. The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme is the government’s commitment to the well-being of families and children across the UK.

What is Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM)?

Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) is a part of the family mediation process that gives children and young people aged ten and above the chance to share their feelings and thoughts. It’s designed to:

  • Ensure children feel respected and listened to.
  • Help parents understand their children’s perspectives.
  • Assist in making decisions that consider the children’s views and well-being.

The Core Principles of CIM

CIM operates under several essential principles to ensure it’s effective and respectful to both children and their families:

  • Voluntary Participation: Children are invited to share their views but are never forced to participate.
  • Confidentiality: Conversations with children during CIM are kept private, with a few exceptions related to safety.
  • Impartiality: The mediator remains neutral, not taking sides or making decisions.
  • Decision-making Stays with Parents: Children can make suggestions, but final decisions are up to the parents.

Benefits of Including Children

Including children in the mediation process can:

  • Help children feel their voices matter.
  • Provide valuable insights that adults might need to consider.
  • Reduce the emotional impact of family changes on children.

How Does CIM Work?

The initial Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) consultation enables the parents to meet with their mediator and discuss the CIM process to ensure it suits their situation.

Following the initial meeting, if the parents feel that CIM will help, the child or children are invited to talk to a specially trained mediator. This conversation is focused solely on understanding what the child or children want and is about the mediator understanding from their perspective.

After this conversation, the mediator shares the child’s/children’s views with the parents. The mediator ensures that the child’s wishes are conveyed and supports the inclusion of these wishes in the decisions made.

Getting Started with CIM

To start the CIM process:

  • Discuss with a Mediator: Talk to your mediator about the possibility and benefits of CIM.
  • Consider Your Child’s Willingness: Ensure your child is comfortable and willing to participate without pressure.
  • Prepare for Openness: Be ready to hear and consider your child’s thoughts and feelings as part of your mediation discussions.

Why Consider CIM?

CIM recognises that children are important family members whose insights can lead to more effective and harmonious solutions. It respects their right to be heard and acknowledges their unique perspectives on family matters.

Understanding Mediation Vouchers

Mediation Vouchers are a government-backed financial scheme that offers up to £500 towards the cost of family mediation. 

The voucher scheme has been designed to alleviate the costs associated with family mediation and to help couples resolve disputes over children, finances and property through discussion rather than court proceedings.

Essential Details of Mediation Vouchers:

  • Financial Contribution: Each voucher provides up to £500 towards mediation services, easing the financial burden on families seeking resolution.
  • How to use: These vouchers are for mediation sessions facilitated by mediators recognised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC), ensuring quality and professionalism in the services provided.
  • The voucher doesn’t cover the costs for the initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

Who is Entitled to the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?

The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme is designed to support families involved in disputes and to make family mediation more accessible, encouraging families to explore amicable resolutions outside of the court. The scheme focuses on:

  • Disputes or applications concerning children.
  • Family financial matters linked to disputes or applications regarding children.

Criteria for Eligibility

To be eligible for a family mediation voucher, participants must:

  • Be involved in a family dispute that falls within the specified case types eligible under the scheme.
  • Attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to assess the suitability of mediation for their case.
  • Agree to engage in the mediation process with an FMC-accredited mediator.

Limitations to Consider:

  • Type of Dispute: The scheme primarily targets disputes involving children and financial matters related to those disputes.
  • Agreement to Mediate: Both parties involved in the dispute must be willing to engage in the mediation process.
  • Availability of Vouchers: Vouchers are offered subject to availability.
  • One Voucher Per Family: Each family is entitled to one voucher contribution per case.

Using the Voucher for MIAM

It is essential to understand how the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme supports the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) and its integration into the mediation journey.

MIAM and the Mediation Voucher

The MIAM serves as the gateway to mediation, allowing couples to explore mediation as a viable route for resolving their dispute before considering court action. It’s at this preliminary stage that the role of the mediation voucher becomes pivotal, yet with specific limitations:

  • Voucher Application: The mediation voucher cannot be applied towards the cost of the MIAM. The scheme is designed to contribute towards the following mediation sessions, emphasising support for the mediation process rather than the initial assessment meeting.
  • Integration into the Mediation Process: The decision not to cover MIAM costs with the voucher underlines the scheme’s focus on facilitating mediation sessions where resolutions are actively sought.
  • However, attending a MIAM remains a critical step, as the eligibility for the voucher scheme is determined and where the groundwork for mediation is laid.
  • Following a successful MIAM, if couples agree to proceed and are deemed eligible, the voucher then contributes towards the subsequent mediation costs, directly supporting families in their journey towards resolution.

Applying for the Mediation Voucher

Securing a mediation voucher is a straightforward process to support families in accessing mediation services easily.

The following step-by-step guide explains how to apply for the voucher, including where to find the necessary forms and contact information.

Step-by-Step Application Guide

  1. Attend a MIAM: Your first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with an accredited mediator. This meeting is crucial for assessing whether mediation is suitable for your situation.
  2. Discuss Eligibility: During the MIAM, discuss your eligibility for the voucher scheme with your mediator. They will consider the specifics of your case to determine if it qualifies for the financial support provided by the scheme.
  3. Mediator Applies on Your Behalf: Your mediator will apply for the voucher directly if your case is deemed eligible. You do not need to fill out an application form; the mediator handles this part of the process.
  4. Confirmation and Proceeding: Once the application is approved and the voucher is allocated to your case, you and your mediator will be informed. You can then proceed with the mediation sessions, with the voucher offsetting the cost.

Finding Forms and Contact Information

You do not need to apply directly for the voucher and do not need to complete any forms. Your FMC-accredited mediator will take care of the application process.

Contacting an Accredited Mediator: To find an accredited mediator and start the MIAM process, visit the Family Mediation Council’s website. You’ll find a directory of accredited mediators and their contact details.

Conclusion

The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme represents a significant step towards making family mediation more accessible and affordable for families across the UK. By offering up to £500 towards mediation costs, the scheme alleviates financial barriers, encouraging families to collaboratively resolve disputes related to children, finances, or property.

With the support of accredited mediators, families can find amicable solutions outside of the courtroom, prioritising the well-being of all involved, especially children.

If navigating through family disputes, consider exploring the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme. It could be the key to unlocking a constructive path forward for your family. For more information or to assess your eligibility, contact an FMC-accredited mediator and begin your journey towards resolution today.


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