Extension to FMC Voucher Scheme

We are pleased to let you know that the Ministry of Justice has made a further £800,000 available to the FMC to distribute in family mediation vouchers.

Jane Kerr, one of the WFM partners, was quoted in the following Telegraph article:


First published on 28 August 2021

  The Telegraph 

More couples paid to divorce out of court to avoid battles

Ministry of Justice scheme that provides £500 for people to arrange independent mediation will double in size


A GOVERNMENT scheme that pays couples £500 to divorce out of court has been so successful that ministers are to double its size.

Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, has authorised a further 2,000 couples to be paid the cash to go to mediation rather than court in a bid to avoid irretrievably fracturing their families.

The tax-free vouchers are designed to help separating couples resolve their difficulties amicably rather than go through potentially damaging court battles.

The extra money of nearly £1 million will enable them to pay for mediation where they can agree custody and contact with their children, share out their assets and agree maintenance arrangements. The scheme started in March, with early results showing three quarters of those who participated avoiding court through mediation. About 130 couples a week are now getting the vouchers.

The move is part of a major shift in approach by the Government after ushering in no-fault divorce laws to make separation easier and less traumatic.

The Ministry of Justice also believes the scheme will help reduce pressure on the courts caused by backlogs built up during lockdown.

Divorces have hit a seven-year high and are expected to increase following the family tensions fuelled during lockdowns. There were 107,599 divorces in 2019, up 18.4 per cent from 90,871 in 2018 and the highest since 2014.

This has led to about 50,000 children being involved in court custody battles between their parents.

Although traditionalists have criticised the Government for not doing more to keep families together, ministers say mediation will spare children increased family conflict, which research by the University of Sussex found has a long-term impact on their mental health and development. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Lord Wolfson QC, the courts minister, said: “Hundreds of separating couples have already benefited from this scheme – resolving their disputes without the need for an often lengthy, costly and emotionally taxing court process.

“This additional funding will allow even more families to access these services, while helping to lessen the pressure on our family courts as we build back better from the pandemic.”

In one case, the parents of a three-year-old boy were able to avoid days in court by using the scheme to agree on future arrangements. The parents did not trust each other and were sceptical about mediation but used it to resolve their differences, leaving the child with parents still talking to each other.

Praising the scheme, Jane Kerr, an accredited mediator, said: “The two cases I have worked on over the last few months were clear examples of families who were in crisis, amid messy separations and who left mediation on a firmer footing with regards to their co-parenting relationship and having worked out practical arrangements.”