New data confirms the success of a government-funded pilot project helping separated parents previously locked in family court wrangles to work with specialist mediators to negotiate long-term agreements.
The family charity that ran the scheme says Ministers need to ‘learn from and extend’ the project.
At-Court Mediation, run by National Family Mediation (NFM) in three pilot areas, provided one-to-one support for parents who had been separated for more than two years and were locked in the family court system. It helped them suspend legal proceedings and meet specialist mediators to negotiate long-term arrangements for children, property and finance.
NFM has now analysed the results of its pre- and post-project evaluations, which saw 433 participants quizzed in a number of areas both before and after their involvement in At-Court Mediation:
- 64 per cent said the level or quality of contact with their children improved following the project
- There was a 37 per cent overall reduction on the impact on children of the couples’ conflict
- A 32 per cent reduction in level of conflict with their ex was recorded
- There was a fall in recorded levels of stress of some 37 per cent
- The project led to a remarkable improvement in the two parties’ communication with each other. Before being involved in At-Court Mediation, parents marked their communication with their ex at an average of 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. After the project the average had risen to 4.2 – an overall increase of 183 per cent.
NFM’s Chief Executive, Jane Robey, said: “Our ground-breaking project shows that with the right help, families entrenched in conflict can find an exit door from the heat of the court room, and move on with their lives in a positive way.
“Our mediators helped couples better understand the impact of their behaviour on their children, and become equipped with the skills needed to reach agreements. They used coaching methods so they were psychologically prepared and wiling to find non-confrontational ways to resolve their disputes, keeping the child at the centre of their interests.
“The project helped couples develop skills in listening, understanding, working through conflict and resolving it. Couples were also given strategies to change destructive communication patterns.
“Having funded the project, we look forward to government Ministers learning from and extending it, so that warring families in other parts of England and Wales can also reap the benefits.”
The project ran in three pilot areas, Berkshire, Herefordshire and West Yorkshire, helping parents who had been separated for more than two years, and were locked in the family court system, to suspend legal proceedings and meet specialist mediators to negotiate long-term arrangements for children, property and finance.