What single parents need from the Spring Budget
22nd Feb 2024
Posted 29 January 2024
The Ministry of Justice has announced that they will NOT be making mediation compulsory for separating partners who wish to access the family courts. This follows a consultation which launched last spring.
This is welcome news for Gingerbread and our single-parent community. Along with many other organisations, we were deeply concerned about the possible of impact of forcing people to engage with their ex-partners through mediation. We know that this can be particularly traumatic for survivors of abuse.
Thank you to the nearly 200 parents who responded to our survey in May. Your views and experiences helped us present a compelling case against compulsory mediation. We’re delighted that today, the government has listened.
You told us:
“Mediation is not always appropriate and more than likely will lengthen resolution time, not shorten it. Those who feel mediation should be imposed on anyone are not in touch with the reality of the situation and are infringing rights to autonomy and safety from further emotional and it physical harm.”
“Mediation was a very negative experience for me. I felt that the mediator in the local family mediation service office lacked training in how to deal with a coercive control situation. In the end I felt my concerns were not given equal value during the mediation meeting at a time in my life when I already felt very vulnerable.”
“The court processes can be very expensive. If an issue can be resolved via mediation, then it’s a good thing as it can save money and a lot of energy.” But… “there needs to be financial support for this (mediation)”
It’s clear the government have listened to concerns. They’ve confirmed that survivors will not be forced to engage in mediation. There’s also a commitment to improve training for mediators on domestic abuse, and encouraging take-up of the mediation voucher scheme. This should mean that people who do want mediation are not deterred by cost or worries about the capabilities of their mediator.
The government has said:
“Following consultation on mandatory mediation, concerns were raised that the proposed safeguards to protect domestic abuse victims may not go far enough. To avoid forcing a continued relationship between a victim and their abuser, the government will not change the law to mandate mediation for separating couples.”
The government are working with the Family Mediation Council to improve training for mediators on domestic abuse. Developing screening tools – such as a questionnaire – will help to identify victims at the earliest opportunity.
The government’s press release summarising these announcements is available here Children’s wellbeing at the heart of family court reforms – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Or for full details you can read the results of the consultation here: Supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
‘Survivors of domestic abuse should never be re-traumatised by the systems put in place for their support. So we’re delighted to see that the government has listened to the many single parents who raised their concerns about enforced mediation,’ says Gingerbread Policy Manager Alexandra Jones. ‘Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who responded to our survey. Your voices have helped Gingerbread make a difference.’