Confused couples to be helped by new quality mark for family mediators

A new accreditation quality mark for family mediators will help reduce couples in crisis who are confused when considering their post-divorce options, says a leading family charity.

With family mediation becoming a more prominent way of resolving family disputes, it is now compulsory for separating couples to attend a mediation awareness meeting before they can apply for a court order to settle issues relating to finance, property and children. New Ministry of Justice funding will enable a compulsory accreditation scheme which all family mediators will have to work towards if they sell their services to the public.

Having long pushed for a single quality mark, the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales, National Family Mediation (NFM), says the government funding represents a wise investment for separating couples and taxpayers.

“Family separation is traumatic enough, but when there are so many so-called ‘family mediators’ advertising their services, with no clear quality mark, the confusion means people tend to stick with what they know”, says Jane Robey, NFM’s Chief Executive. “Often that means they plump for solicitors’ high-cost legal fees instead of committing to quicker, cheaper out-of-court dispute resolution services.

“Government funding for a new single professional standard which all those calling themselves ‘mediators’ will have to work towards is a wise investment.

“Importantly it will make life a little simpler for confused couples because there will be a recognisable quality mark that will give people confidence when they are considering engaging a family mediator to help them reach a settlement.

“The traditional post-Christmas increase in divorce means more threatening clouds are gathering right now for families across the country. Whether you need a roofer, car mechanic or a dispute resolution expert, quality assurance is a key part of the decision you make. Most of us know what industry standards look like for other professions so why should it be different for other specialist services? When the storm breaks, you need to know you can count on the quality.

“Family breakdown costs the economy £46 billion per year, of which it is estimated nearly £8 billion is directly connected to issues that a more effective route into out-of-court dispute resolution services could alleviate.”

But she conceded that the initiative will not draw universal praise.

“There are those who lack skills and qualifications who might be thinking of setting themselves up as ‘mediators’. Quacks don’t add value, and families need to know where to look for the right qualifications before they commit to mediation,” she said

Establishment of the initiative is being funded by the Ministry of Justice, with responsibility for the scheme’s development being handed to the Family Mediation Council.