DIVORCING couples can get an extra £500 for free to put towards legal costs.
Families can access help to pay for mediation services, in a bid to keep settlements out of court.
The scheme was launched by the government in March as part of a plan to free up space in the family courts.
It's also designed to prevent families going through costly and upsetting courtroom battles, which can have a knock on effect on children.
Hundreds of people have already accessed the support with around 130 vouchers currently being used every week.
Jane Robey, the chief executive of National Family Mediation, said that Christmas can be a particularly emotive time and that couples should consider the voucher scheme.
She said: “Christmas arrangements are usually made separate to other contact arrangements, and typically speaking the Courts try to order alternate xmas days.
“However, year after year we see the same disputes amongst parents and a real sticking point is who gets to have the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It’s a very emotive topic.
“This year is going to be harder as many haven’t seen their families because of lockdown last year so parents need to make a supreme effort to make sure the kids don’t miss out again, and so the sooner families come together to put a plan in place that works for everyone, the better.
“While the court may have capacity to hear a handful of the more extreme cases, the reality is that it is too late for most people. Mediation is a great alternative and the funding means it is really accessible to everyone too.
“The voucher scheme means that everyone can access the support they need, and it could save them thousands on costly court fees, but time is running out and so we would really encourage anyone who wants to engage with mediation to put plans in place for Christmas act now.”
How can I get the £500 help?
Divorcing couples may be required to attend aMediation Information Assessment Meeting before making a court application.
At this meeting, the mediator will discuss the voucher scheme with you if your case might be eligible.
You will be offered a ‘voucher’ contribution, subject to suitability, case type and availability of the vouchers.
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