News release: Court refers just 2 per cent of parties to mediation

Unpublished data compiled by the Ministry of Justice reveals that family courts referred just 713 parties to publicly-funded mediation in 2013/14.

The number of referrals from court accounted for just over 2% of the 30,245 publicly-funded Mediation Information & Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) that took place in 2013/14. This will come as a blow to Ministers given that family mediation is being held up by government as the publicly funded alternative to litigation.

Annual data for referrals to mediation was secured via a Freedom of Information request submitted by divorce & separation service LawyerSupportedMediation.com.

Far from increasing the number of mediations the withdrawal of legal aid from solicitors and barristers for most family disputes resulted in mediation numbers plummeting by almost 40% in 2013/14 – the first full year of government cuts.

Instead of mediating, the number of parents heading to court without a lawyer ballooned by over 19,000 in 2013/14. Over half of the increase was accounted for by low-income mothers no longer able to access legal aid for representation.

Beyond court referrals to mediation, the data revealed links between advisory agencies and publicly funded mediators were shockingly weak. In 2013/14, the Citizens Advice Bureau was responsible for just 791 MIAMs taking place while referrals from Relate and other relationship counseling services totalled just 35 for the year.

The biggest source of referrals to publicly funded mediation continued to be family lawyers despite there being no funding requirement or financial incentive for them to refer onto mediators following the introduction of LASPO. Referrals from lawyers accounted for 15,158 MIAMs, just over half the total number that took place in 2013/14. People referring themselves to mediation accounted for 39% of MIAMs while referrals from the NHS and GPs numbered just 20.

Marc Lopatin, trained family mediator and founder of LawyerSupportedMediation,com, said: “The referral data is yet more evidence that without lawyers being aligned and supportive of mediation, the number of referrals will forever be constrained.

“Ministers need to urgently incentivise family lawyers to encourage people to mediate and to ensure clients remain informed once there. Else, the same lawyers will continue selling low-value unbundled services to former legal aid clients which does nothing to dampen the incentive to litigate in person.”

To strengthen referral links between mediators and family law stakeholders the Mediation Taskforce – chaired by Sir David Norgrove – recently recommended Ministers fund a low-level campaign to raise awareness about what mediators do and how effective they can be.

Despite falling numbers of people attending mediation in 2013/14, data from the Ministry of Justice showed that almost eight out of ten people that started mediation went on to reach agreement.

ENDS/

For more information please contact Marc Lopatin, founder, Lawyer-Supported Mediation on 033 0223 1188.

Year 1 LASPO: results are in

The post-LASPO impact on family mediation was finally laid bare with today’s publication of legal aid statistics for 2013/14.

For family law services, it’s a mixture of bad news with some obvious pointers for putting things right. First, the bad news: in 2013/14, the number of mediation starts plummeted by 38% following the removal of legal aid from family lawyers for most family law matters.

Practitioners will recall that in pre-LASPO times lawyers first had to make a compulsory referral to mediation before being allowed to access the next pot of legal aid. As a direct result, there were 13,609 mediation starts in 2012/13. With that requirement removed, this fell to 8,400 in 2013/14.

Not surprisingly, the fall in numbers gave way to a massive £16.8 million under spend by the MoJ on family mediation in 2013/14. One would imagine this to be extremely embarrassing for MoJ top brass given this is one saving they weren’t looking to make!

In 2012/13, the annual bill for family mediation stood at £14.3 million. In 2013/14, this dropped by almost half to £7.5million. On the eve of LASPO, the MoJ also put aside an additional £10 million to fund the surge in mediation that never was. So given the MoJ was happy to spend the 2012/13 budget plus another £10m to boot, total under spend for 2013/14 stands at almost £17 million. (higher than we thought)

Another illustration of policy failure is the paltry amount paid out to family lawyers for supporting clients at mediation with legal advice. The MoJ paid out a grand total of £17,040 to lawyers claiming “Help with Mediation”. That’s less than the price of going to court for many a private divorce client. And it should also be a cause for concern given decisions taken at mediation need to be informed.

The answer is simple: pay legal family lawyers an acceptable sum to support mediation as a legal adviser. At present, the LAA offers lawyers £150 to perform this function. No wonder unbundled services replaced referrals to mediation in 2013/14.

And finally some good news: over three-quarters (79%) of mediation starts led to agreement. This is very impressive and over 10% higher than previous years when most clients ended up in front of mediators as a result of compulsion.

This is also reflected in the stats for MIAMs. Almost two-thirds (63%) of MIAMs led to a mediation start in 2013/14. Again, very impressive given the figure for 2012/13 stood at 44%.

Taken as a whole, the data makes the clear case for voluntarism over compulsion when it comes to success at mediation. The only question in town is what can be done to help both members of a couple – but particularly the second party – see some self-interest in exploring mediation.

With mediation services continuing to close their doors across the country, and more parents at court without a lawyer than with one, lets hope the MoJ comes up with some answers soon

News release: Almost 20,000 more parents defend themselves in family court cases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Following cuts to legal aid almost 20,000 more parents went to court without a lawyer in 2013/14, according to unpublished government figures.

The surge in unrepresented parents contesting child contact and residence cases follows the withdrawal of legal aid from family lawyers in April 2013 for most private family law matters.

Far from reducing the number of warring parents heading to court, cuts to legal aid resulted in an annual increase. But it is the surge in the number of unrepresented parents that will be a cause for concern among parenting and child welfare organisations.

For the first time ever, over half (58%) of all parents who attended court in 2013/14 did so without a lawyer to represent them. In total, UK family courts dealt with 19,140 more unrepresented parents leading to an unprecedented warning from judges about courtroom delays and access to justice.

Jerry Karlin, Chair of shared parenting charity, Families Need Fathers said: “It is staggering that so many parents are effectively being left to fend for themselves. We urgently need to develop affordable and compelling services that strive to keep parents from the courtroom. Children need their parents to communicate effectively with each other so that conflict can be addressed and ultimately resolved.”

Over half the rise in the number of unrepresented parties were women as low-income mums bore the brunt of the cuts to legal aid. Without access to legal aid for representation at court, the number of unrepresented mothers surged by 52% to almost 35,000. And for the first time, mothers made up more than half (53%) of all unrepresented parents attending court to contest child arrangements.

In fact, more mothers appeared at court in 2013/14 without a lawyer than with one. This is a total turnaround given over 60% of women at court were represented by lawyers in 2012/13 when legal was still available.

Part of the justification for removing legal aid from lawyers was that warring parents would attend publicly funded family mediation instead of going to court. The prediction proved disastrous with family mediation falling by almost 40% in 2013/14 as parents bypassed mediators for the judge.

The shocking revelations follow a Freedom of Information request by LawyerSupportedMediation.com, a new UK-wide divorce & separation service being spearheaded by London law firm Ronald Fletcher Baker.

Rachel Duke, Head of Family at Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP, who helped develop Lawyer-Supported Mediation, said: “For too many parents, going to court is seen as the only option instead of a last resort. This is because family law services are simply too expensive for most separating families.

“We desperately need some innovation and alignment amongst lawyers and family mediators to develop services that meet the needs of parents in conflict. Lawyers and mediators working in tandem can build trust and get separating parents talking about the interests of their children. There’s not a lawyer in the land who can’t fix their fee to do this.”

Marc Lopatin, trained family mediator and founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com said: “Legal aid remains available for mediation and it’s extremely effective at helping parents reach agreement. The biggest challenge is getting more parents to explore it. This won’t happen unless the Ministry of Justice uses legal aid to bring lawyers and mediators together. At present, it’s driving them apart.”

In 2013/14, almost eight out of ten separating couples that began family mediation went on to reach agreement.* To encourage the take-up of family mediation, the government now insists the party taking legal action against their former partner first attend a mediation awareness meeting.

*Source Ministry of Justice:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-publication-legal-aid-statistics-2013-to-2014

For the latest facts about divorce, see Office of National Statistics Infographic:
http://bit.ly/1n4UV4z

For more information:
Marc Lopatin: Founder, LawyerSupportedMeditation.com 033 0223 1188

No role for lawyers in mediation rescue plan

Recommendations offered by the Family Mediation Taskforce to government start off well enough. Its title is spot on: “What more can be done, locally and nationally, to encourage more people to use family mediation to resolve their disputes?”

Alas, that’s about as far as it goes. The report reminds the reader that taskforces tend to be commissioned by politicians for politicians. They are not supposed to embarrass ministers or recommend they scrap flawed assumptions.

In this instance, it’s clear that the taskforce wasn’t convened to question the enduring wisdom of trying to establish family mediation as a front line service despite it living in the shadow of referring lawyers for over three decades.

Judging by the taskforce’s recommendations it seems Messrs Grayling and Hughes still believe that some policy tweaks and low-level spending will turn the aforementioned cultural norm on its head.

With no serious challenge to ministerial thinking, the recommendations made by the taskforce do little to address how to establish a financially viable and scalable market for family mediation.

Promoting mediation as a front line service – or a first port of call – is deeply flawed given the primacy of meeting client need. The taskforce’s decision to recommend additional subsidy where existing subsidy has failed is evidence that ministers continue to believe promoting mediation in its own right will lead to a vast increase of attendee numbers.

It’s not as if the MoJ has been twiddling its thumbs on the communications and awareness front since April 2013. It has produced materials for mediators, convened referral bodies and chatted up the consumer press whenever opportunity presented itself.

Yet only one member of the taskforce is listed as a communications/marketing professional. This is relevant since key recommendations – such as free MIAMs for all and paying for first joint session of mediation when one party is private and the other funded – are marketing devices intended to eek out more willingness for mediators to work with.

But as the taskforce duly notes, people want a service that constrains the behaviour of the other party and they want to talk to someone who is on their side. They often want to exploit a power imbalance or reverse it. It explains why family lawyers are – and family mediators aren’t – to be found on the nation’s high streets paying rent and business rates.

Having said that, making MIAMS free for all is not without merit. It makes a great deal of sense given the MoJ is now expecting the nation’s mediators to change the mind of each and every Applicant forcibly diverted to them en route to court. Being able to offer them and the Respondent a free MIAM – irrespective of their financial status – is clearly a good thing.

But this remains in the context of averting litigation, hardly the moment when mediation can have its greatest impact. This takes us back to how to individual mediation services can expand and convert more passing traffic?

Lets quickly remind ourselves of how this played out in 2013/14 (when the link with referring lawyers was severed). Publicly-funded mediation plummeted by almost 40% leading to the closure of mediation services overly dependent on subsidy.

Moreover, referral sources to publicly funded mediators – secured under the Freedom of Information Act – show that in December 2013 (nine months after the cuts were made) lawyers were still the largest source of referrals to publicly funded mediators.

Those referrals from lawyers were presumably made in spite of the absence of any financial incentive. As the taskforce ruefully notes, publicly funded lawyers made fewer than 30 claims for Help with Mediation in 2013/14 amounting to a legal aid bill of £6,000! In response to this spectacular lack of commercial alignment, the taskforce recommends paying an advising lawyer £300 – as opposed £200 – for drafting a consent order.

Lets break that down: you’re a publicly funded legal aid lawyer with individual and departmental monthly targets. You’re being told you can earn an extra £100 to support mediation assuming you’re the lawyer doing the paperwork, the parties are divorcing, the case is finance/all issues and it reaches agreement at mediation.

I think we can safely assume that publicly funded family lawyers will continue selling unbundled services to low income clients despite the fact that many lawyers privately express frustration that unbundled services fail to bring them into close enough proximity to have a meaningful impact. There is also the argument that unbundled services are doing nothing to dampen the incentive to litigate in person since clients can take advice between court hearings.

Above all – and in light of the lessons of 2013/14 – does the taskforce really think family lawyers will just on sit their hands should free MIAMS for all result in tens of thousands of separating couples making a beeline for family mediators? Every lawyer in the land would respond by promoting free initial meetings as a matter of course.

You can – as MoJ ministers seem intent on doing – exclude lawyers from your plans. But making a competitor of the go-to high street adviser is doing family mediation no favours.

If ministers are serious about scaling up the benefits of family mediation, they will recognise the fallacy of positioning it as a front line service. You can’t legislate for long-term cultural change but you can get more people in front of mediators.

Bringing separating couples to a point of readiness to mediate requires innovation and the careful choreography of advising lawyer and mediator. One suspects the taskforce knew this all along.

*A version of this article was published by Jordan Publishing

Regional data: mediation falls across UK

In late June the Ministry of Justice published legal aid statistics for 2013/14 showing a 38% year-on-year drop in the number of UK-wide mediations getting underway.

Here’s what happened at the regional level following the removal of legal aid from lawyers in April 2013.

july14-miams

july14-mediation-starts

Only Newcastle managed to buck the trend for steep falls in mediation starts while Birmingham and Brighton recorded the biggest falls in the UK.

The collapse in MIAMs meanwhile was to be expected in all regions following the end of compulsory referrals from family lawyers acting for legal aid clients. Expect to see MIAMs surge once again now that the MoJ requires Applicants to first meet with a mediator before heading to court.

Converting those MIAMs to mediation is another matter entirely. If you have a minute, check out our response to the Mediation Taskforce’s recently published rescue plan.

The Price of Inertia

They say that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. The collapse in family mediation following changes to legal aid comes a pretty close third.

In 2013/14, publicly funded family mediation fell by almost 40% and for the first time ever more parents went to court to contest child matters without a lawyer than with one.

The fall in mediation – in a year when the government expected it to boom – comes at a huge cost to both impacted families and society at large. Helping separating parents communicate with one another at a time of conflict is a public good and the most cost-effective way of reaching agreement. Of those couples that did find their way to a family mediator in 2013/14, almost eight out of ten reached agreement.

To scale up such outcomes – and repair the damage its policies have caused – the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) set up a mediation taskforce earlier this year. It is about to publish its final proposals that will almost certainly call upon MoJ minister Simon Hughes to put some money back into the system. With a £17 million annual under spend for family mediation in 2013/14, there should hopefully be some room for manoeuvre.

This is certainly the view of National Family Mediation which last week broke ranks to call for all Mediation Information & Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) to be made free of charge for everyone.

But will making such meetings free for all be sufficient to tip the scales in favour of mediation? For a start, it is often overlooked that separating couples are in crude terms one-time shoppers making a distressed purchase. And that’s if they make a purchase at all. Lopsided kitchen table deals or representing oneself at court are far less expensive in cash terms than hiring professional help: lawyer or mediator.

It also begs the wider question of what the mediation taskforce is trying to achieve? Simply asking the MoJ to splash some cash to restore family mediation to pre-April 2013 levels would be disingenuous in the extreme. It was after all the MoJ that held up family mediation as its preferred means of filling the vacuum created by removing legal aid from lawyers.

But that implies pre-April 2013 measures to promote family mediation were somehow fit for purpose. We used the Freedom of Information Act to find out that in 2012/13 more money was spent on MIAMs than mediation itself. This may have kept afloat some mediation services but this is a poor return for both separating families and taxpayers alike.

It’s not hard to work out why. In 2012/13 – the last full year before changes to legal aid – the government compelled lawyers to refer all legal aid clients on to a publicly funded mediator as a condition of the same lawyer accessing the next (and major) tranche of legal aid. As a result, 62,390 compulsory referrals were made to publicly funded mediators (83% of total referrals). Yet in the same year only 13,609 mediations got underway.

The data shows that clients simply boomeranged back to their referring lawyer to pursue lawyer-led alternatives such as publicly-funded representation at court. As such, one could argue that referred clients – but particularly their referring lawyers – had no incentive for mediation to happen. And that’s before we even get to the holy grail of mediation: getting the second member of the couple to participate!

Recognising this the MoJ removed the bulk of legal aid funding from referring lawyers and put an additional £10 million aside to fund the anticipated expansion of mediation as a front line service. And so the link between referring lawyer and recipient mediator was cut.

It’s been a total disaster: far from filling the vacuum, mediation numbers plummeted by almost 40% and a record number of low-income mums attended court without a lawyer for child proceedings. For the first time, they outnumber unrepresented dads.

Those that did find their way to mediation in 2013/14 fared much better. As stated above, almost eight of 10 people that began publicly funded mediation in 2013/14 went on to reach agreement. That’s pretty impressive given mediators spend their days working with high conflict couples reeling from low levels of trust.

It also throws up what ought to be termed the mediation paradox. Mediation is effective at helping separating couples reach agreement because the approach is voluntary and the mediator impartial. The results are transformative because clients are empowered to take responsibility for resolving their own dispute. The mediator acts as a skilled guide, clarifying and exploring the issues, developing options and helping the parties secure agreement.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how does that play out when used as a marketing message? Here’s a genuine tweet promoting mediation from earlier this year:

“We never take sides/give advice, but help people negotiate with each other constructively”

As marketing messages go, you may as well include the address of the nearest family court. Most people experiencing relationship breakdown will likely be repelled. Hence the paradox.

That’s because people want a service that constrains the behaviour of the other party and they want to talk to someone who is on their side. This neatly explains why family lawyers are – and family mediators aren’t – to be found on the nation’s high streets paying rent and business rates.

Now, that’s all well and good if parties can afford to pay upwards of £200 per hour (plus Vat) for two lawyers to resolve their dispute for them. They may still end up mediating at some point since some lawyers sometimes suggest mediation further down the line. There is good reason for this: unless both parties are in similar state of emotional readiness, mediation will likely be resisted by one or both parties despite the savings and benefits described to them.

This is because the party initiating the divorce or separation is likely to have gone through what relationship therapists call the “loss curve” while still in the marriage/relationship. This is often not the case for the party on the receiving end of their partner’s decision to leave them. There’s an entire spectrum of emotions that mark out the transition from shock/numbness to acceptance/moving on.

Riding out the loss curve is of course no less painful whether rich or poor. But at least those with the resources can afford the hired help to negotiate or advocate on their behalf. How many millionaires go to mediation?

But this does nothing to tackle the enduring market failure that family law services are priced beyond the means of most people that need them. But instead of developing multidisciplinary services capable of meeting that demand on more affordable terms, we have high profile lawyers displaying a spectacular lack of imagination by demanding a return to legal aid for fighting their client’s corner at court.

This self-serving mantra gives the lie that all things emotional are set in stone and that only court can bring the other party to heel. Never mind that going to court takes months, is fraught with uncertainty and is sure to leave a bitter taste in one party’s mouth, if not both.

It gets worse: rather than lawyers and mediators aligning themselves to sell more affordable family law services, publicly funded lawyers have reacted to the withdrawal of legal aid by monetising lower-income clients on fee paying terms. These are couples the MoJ intended for publicly funded mediation.

Rather than refer them on to mediation, lawyers sell “unbundled services” to clients who cannot afford lawyer-led options. These are small freestanding modules of work such as filling out the divorce petition, compiling financial disclosure and preparing submissions for court. But ad hoc lawyer input is not the stuff of dispute resolution which requires skill, structure and momentum.

Privately, many lawyers express frustration that unbundled services fail to bring them into close enough proximity to have a positive impact. There is also the argument that unbundled services are doing nothing to dampen the incentive to litigate in person since clients can take advice between court hearings.

But don’t go blaming the lawyers for diverting families from publicly funded mediation. Currently, the MoJ currently pays lawyers a paltry £150 to advise a client once mediation is underway. Is it any surprise that the legal aid bill in 2013/14 for lawyers advising clients at publicly funded mediation was just £17,040. Not one family lawyer in London claimed public funds for doing this.

This should be ringing alarm bells in Whitehall. For decisions to be truly informed at mediation, clients should seek independent legal advice in parallel. This takes on particular resonance now that the MoJ insists everyone taking legal action against their ex-partner first meet with a mediator before being allowed to file court papers.

Expect to see a surge in the number of MIAMs taking place. This is of little consequence though as 2012/13 referrals make plain. It is the conversion to mediation that matters. Again, there are huge clues in the mediation data.

Lets take the MoJ’s preferred starting point for evaluating conversion to mediation. In 2012/13, 30,662 assessment meetings took place where both members of the couple responded to the mediator’s invitation.

Of those 30,662 assessments, less than half (44%) converted to mediation. Contrast this with the same stat in 2013/14 when there was no compulsion being applied by the MoJ to non-aligned referring lawyers. Almost two-thirds (63%) of assessments converted to mediation when both parties were willing to give the mediator a hearing. And of that figure (8,400 couples), almost eight of ten (6,613) went on reach agreement.

While absolute numbers were admittedly smaller in 2013/14, more efficient conversion to mediation underlines both members of the couple had an interest in attending. This could be about saving money, avoiding court or trying to do the best by their children. It does not matter. The timing for mediation was right meaning there was some willingness for the mediator to work with.

For starters the MoJ might want to Google “emotional loss curve” and acknowledge that until such time that lawyers and mediators are commercially aligned the psychology of willingness cannot be effectively incubated by family law services at a price most people can afford.

This is because the role of lawyers in converting clients to mediation is woefully unrecogised to the point of willful blindness. It’s depressing since lawyers themselves could be growing the market for their wares by selling more affordable hybrid services where mediation houses much of the risk.

Legal advice plus the cost of mediation is about half the price of hiring the same two lawyers to broker an out of court settlement. Given publicly funded family lawyers didn’t attract private clients of this ilk to start with, it’s a mystery why more haven’t grasped the potential of teaming up with local mediators to offer an end-to-end service offering a higher return than unbundled fees but still undercuts the private client lawyer down the road.

Moreover, lawyers can easily fix the price of advice/drafting in support of mediation giving separating partners an additional incentive in the guise of price certainty where previously there was none.

Above all, commercially aligned lawyers mean the loss curve can be better managed among less affluent separating families. For starters, ownership and choice can be allocated to each party. The lawyer advising the initiating party is ideally placed to explain the advantage of granting their ex-partner a period of time to engage in mediation, not least because the alternative options are priced too high for the lawyer to suggest. Hence the advising lawyer has a commercial interest in mediation being considered.

But if mediation is going to be considered the second party clearly needs to feel some reassurance and ownership if they’re going to engage. In other words: symmetry. They also need someone in their corner – a similarly aligned advising lawyer – who can reassure them that exploring mediation is not about them being “hoodwinked by the other side”. They also need to be granted some ownership over proceedings so why not structure the hybrid service so that the second party chooses the mediation provider on behalf of the initiating party?

None of the above is rocket science. It is inertia on the part of lawyers and mediators that continues to hold back the development of services that respect both the pocket and emotional state of most separating families. At best, handing out free MIAMs for all is a time limited smart subsidy in the name of market making. In reality, it will just see the UK’s non-aligned family lawyers respond with “free initial meetings” of their own. And so it goes. Has 2013/14 taught us nothing?

MEDIA RELEASE: Low-income mums bear brunt of legal aid cuts

Over 10,000 more mothers went to court without a lawyer to fight child contact and custody battles in the nine months following cuts to legal aid, new government figures reveal.

Court user data – compiled by the Ministry of Justice – shows that between April and December 2013 over half (57%) of all UK parents went to court without a lawyer for child-related proceedings. The huge rise in unrepresented parents follows the withdrawal of legal aid from family lawyers in April 2013 for most family law matters.

Mothers have been the hardest hit: the Ministry of Justice listed 27,017 women listed as unrepresented, an increase of almost two-thirds (64%) over the same period in 2012 when the figure stood at 16,458. The number of unrepresented mothers increased at almost double the rate of unrepresented fathers.

The shocking revelation follows a Freedom of Information request by LawyerSupportedMediation.com, a new UK-wide divorce & separation service which combines fixed fee legal advice with family mediation.

Between April and December 2013, more mothers (59%) appeared at court without a lawyer than with one. This is a complete turnaround compared to the same period in 2012 when 61% of women were represented by lawyers at child-related court proceedings.

Sarah Thompson, a Principal Lawyer at law firm Slater & Gordon who helped develop Lawyer-Supported Mediation, said: “Getting caught up in the court process can be incredibly hard on both parents. Often people find that decisions go against them because they’ve not been able to refer the judge to the relevant legal points of their case. They can end up getting emotional and not representing their cause in the best possible way.

“To respond to this crisis in representation the legal professional is having to completely rethink how best to serve clients. We need to develop more affordable approaches that build trust, encourage dialogue and ultimately help separating couples reach the right outcome for them.”

Marc Lopatin, trained mediator and founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com, said: “Legal aid remains available for family mediation and it’s extremely effective at helping parents reach agreement. The biggest challenge is getting more parents to explore it. This won’t happen unless the Ministry of Justice uses legal aid to bring lawyers and mediators together. At present, it’s driving them apart.”

In 2012/13, over two-thirds of separating couples beginning family mediation went on to reach agreement. In a bid to restore mediation numbers, the government now insists any party taking legal action against their former partner first attend a compulsory mediation awareness meeting.

Previously, LawyerSupportedMediation.com used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal that the Ministry of Justice spent less than half of the £24 million it allocated to fund family mediation in 2013/14. Despite mediation remaining available on legal aid, the number of parents attending fell by 40% between May and December 2013.

Senior judges warned last month of huge stresses on the country’s family courts. In written evidence responding to the government’s consultation on the first year of cuts to public funding, the judicial executive board said that courts have faced an ‘unprecedented increase’ in numbers of litigants in person. It warned that the reductions in legal aid would lead to cost increases elsewhere in the court system as cases now take longer.

The Ministry of Justice will publish legal aid statistics for April 2013 to March 2014 on Tuesday, 24th June.