Mediation & alternatives to court
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for developing policy on alternative methods of dispute resolution.
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 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.
You can search the directory for a mediation provider that is local to you; and the cost of mediation is based on a fixed fee, depending on the value of the dispute.
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.
There is currently an expectation, that before applying to the Family Court, people will need to prove they’ve considered mediation first. They can do this:
- by showing they are exempt from having to consider mediation, for example, if domestic violence is involved; or
- 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.
It is important that people in family disputes are made aware of this. The Children & Families Bill which is progressing through Parliament seeks to make this a legal requirement in Spring 2014.
There are a range of national mediation organisations that can either provide direct help or put people in touch with a mediator in their area.
- find details of the main mediation bodies on the Family Mediation Council website
- search for a family mediator on the Family Mediation Service Finder
- find out more information about mediation on the Sorting Out Separation website.
Please Note: there is no longer a National Mediation Helpline phone number or website