Mediation & alternatives to court

Courts should be the last resort for people involved in civil or family disputes unless there are issues around urgency and safety, eg in relation to child abuse or domestic violence.

Mediation, in particular, can be a flexible, speedy and cost effective way to resolve disputes. It is a confidential process that enables both parties to explain and then discuss what their needs and concerns are to each other in the presence of an independent third party – the mediator – so that they reach an agreement between themselves.

The individuals concerned have greater control and responsibility in resolving disagreements than if they went to court. Mediation empowers parties to control the length of the process, the issues they would like to discuss, and the outcome. Mediation can also be less stressful, particularly for any children involved, and in the long run, can be cheaper than going to court.

Mediation for family cases

Mediation can be particularly beneficial where there will be a continuing relationship following dispute resolution – such as in family cases.

Family mediation can help reduce hostility and improve chances of long-term co-operation between parents and couples, for example in agreeing arrangements for their children and financial matters.

People applying to the Family Court to resolve disputes over children or finances, legally need to prove they’ve considered mediation first.

Family mediators are independent professionals trained to who help separating couples to reach agreements without going to court.

Mediation can help as:

  • It gives you more say about what happens than going to court;
  • It’s less stressful, with less conflict between you and your ex;
  • The agreements you make can be changed if your circumstances change;
  • It can be less upsetting or damaging for any children involved – and helps them continue important family relationships.;
  • It can be quicker and cheaper than long drawn-out court battles.

If people still want to go to the Family Court to resolve their dispute, they can do this:

  • by proving to the judge that they have been to a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ with a family mediator but that mediation is not suitable for them.
  • by showing they are exempt from having to consider mediation, for example, if domestic violence is involved; or

To try and help the mediation sector, and advice organisations to promote mediation, we have produced a number of public information materials. These have also been shared with family courts around the country.

You can download and print our:

to help raise public awareness (both include a space for you to add local contact details if needed). We have made professional print files available if you wish to print the leaflet or poster in bulk.

 You can also:

The leaflet and poster are also available in Welsh. Professional print files are also available.

Please note: there is no longer a National Mediation Helpline phone number.

Mediation for civil disputes

Mediation can be used to resolve a whole range of everyday disputes – including:

  • housing issues
  • business disputes
  • small claims
  • debt claims
  • boundary disputes
  • employment disputes
  • contractual disputes
  • personal injury and negligence claims, and
  • community disputes such as nuisance or harassment issues.

The Small Claims Mediation Service deals with monetary claims under £10,000 that are already going through the courts. If both parties agree to using mediation, they will be contacted by the service. As most cases are dealt with by telephone, they save the time and the expense of having to go to court.

The Civil Mediation Directory is an online tool listing a number of local and national civil and commercial mediation providers, all of whom are accredited by the Civil Mediation Council.

Anyone can search the directory for a local mediation provider; the cost of mediation is based on a fixed fee, depending on the value of the dispute.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service


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