Slashed Legal Aid Budget in U.K. Results in Fewer Mediations, Clogged Court Dockets
Wednesday, January, 15, 2014
Recent budget challenges in the United Kingdom have resulted in severe budget cutbacks for legal aid for separating and divorcing couples. The cuts to legal aid have resulted directly in a reduction of separating couples engaging in mediation, with mediation cases dropping by almost a third over the last year. Simultaneously there has been a spike in divorce cases entering the courts, clogging calendars and slowing down the legal processes for everyone.
The U.K. government continues to promote mediation and claims it stands ready to assist couples with paying for mediation services, but has at the same time tightened the restrictions and made it much more difficult for couples to receive financial assistance for mediation. The largest family mediation services provider in the U.K, National Family Mediation, reports that the number of their clients successfully receiving government funding for mediation services has fallen by 7% since last year – and the number of clients referred to them for mediation services has fallen by 40%.
The end result is couples without any guidance whatsoever bringing their divorce cases to the courts and not only cluttering the dockets with their cases but requiring more time than other cases as they are frequently unprepared and unfamiliar with the processes at play.
The government insists it supports mediation and continues to fund it for qualifying couples. Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes was quoted as saying “Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.”