Info & Advice

Who pays for mediation, and can it be free?

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Avoiding court and finding alternative methods to resolve family disputes arising from separation and divorce is an effective way to reduce costs and limit damage to your relationship, particularly if there are many years of co-parenting ahead.

Family mediation is often quicker and certainly cheaper than going through court proceedings; it can also offer individuals more control over the process, and result in improved communication with an ex. But how much does mediation cost, who pays, and are there circumstances where it can be free? This guide answers all those questions and more.

How much does mediation cost?

How much someone pays for mediation depends on how much their mediation provider charges. This may be by the hour, per session, or as part of a fixed fee package, and how many sessions are required to settle the dispute. Costs can also be affected by location; for example, it is likely to cost more in London, as opposed to Manchester.

According to National Family Mediation, average overall fees range from £750 to £1,500. But the more disagreements you have, the more mediation sessions will be required to resolve them. The best way to keep costs to a minimum is to try to agree on as many areas as possible before your first session. Reducing your disputes down to a single issue, such as division of matrimonial assets, or child arrangements, can limit the amount of time you need in mediation and save money.

Who pays for family mediation?

Who pays for mediation depends on several factors, such as eligibility for legal aid, the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, your financial circumstances, and the payment agreement you may have made with your ex.

If you don’t qualify for any of the above schemes, then family mediation is a privately paid for service. In the scenario where neither party is eligible for legal aid or the voucher scheme, the question then arises about who pays for the sessions.

The default position is that each party will pay their own share of the mediation costs. So if you are both private clients, the costs will be shared equally between you. If one of you is eligible for legal aid and the other is not, then the eligible party won’t pay towards the costs,  and while the private client will not have to pay for their first joint mediation session or MIAM, they will have to pay their share of everything else.

Who pays for mediation and the proportion of cost sharing often depends on the financial situation of each party. In some cases, a party earning significantly more than the other may agree to contribute a more proportionate sum towards the overall costs. Cost sharing is usually the best way to pay for family mediation because it ensures that both parties have a vested interest in making it work. If only one person is paying for both, they can feel aggrieved and resentful if the mediation is taking longer than they would like, particularly, if the non-paying party is dragging their feet.

If the other party is refusing to pay, you can attempt to resolve the dispute with further discussion with the assistance of a mediator, and pay for the mediation in full yourself. Or, the final option, is to decide not to proceed with mediation and apply to the court for the matter to be resolved. However, this should always be a last resort.

Can I get mediation free?

Legal aid is a means tested subsidy provided by the government to help separating and divorcing couples resolve issues relating to the breakdown of their relationship. Over recent years, legal aid has been reduced to a state where very few people qualify for the help. Generally speaking, only those who are victims of domestic abuse and/or coercive control will be able to make a claim. However, despite this, you may be able to get legal aid to cover the costs of mediation if you are in receipt of a low income.

If you qualify, legal aid will cover all your mediation costs, including the first session for your ex, even if they are personally ineligible. You may be entitled to legal aid to pay for mediation if you are:

  • In receipt of a low income
  • Unemployed
  • Experiencing a sudden change in finances (this would include situations where one party relied on the other for financial support, but this has been withdrawn because of the separation/divorce)

If the dispute between you and your ex is about a child, you may be able to get a free voucher worth up to £500 for mediation. The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme was introduced in 2021 to support the recovery of the family courts following COVID-19, and to help families settle disputes about arrangements for their children without the need for legal action. Although the voucher may not cover all costs, it should go some way to easing any anxieties surrounding the cost of taking the mediation option.

How can I apply for a family mediation voucher?

The mediator who conducts the MIAM (first mediation meeting) will make you aware of the scheme and an application will be completed during the meeting. The mediator will assess eligibility and apply for the funding on your behalf if you meet the criteria. The money will be paid directly to the mediation provider, and they will deduct this amount from the final bill.

Eligibility criteria include:

  • The application must relate to mediation sessions regarding children only. If the mediation covers both finances and children matters, the voucher will only be applied towards the costs relating to the sessions that deal with child related issues. Therefore, if your dispute only surrounds property and finances, you will not be eligible for a family mediation voucher.
  • The voucher only covers the mediation session and not any other work carried out by the mediator, such as preparation of a parenting plan
  • Applicants must ask the mediator to apply for the voucher, and they must not apply for more than one voucher.

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