NEW funding for a mediation service will help families affected by couples divorcing in the Bradford area, it has been claimed.

Couples separating will qualify for free mediation where either one qualifies for legal aid under a change announced by Justice Minister Simon Hughes.

That has been trumpeted as a breakthrough in improving the understanding of what family mediation can achieve.

“Whilst legal aid is available for mediation, at present if one of the two people involved doesn’t qualify for legal aid they have to pay,” said Jane Robey, Chief Executive of National Family Mediation, the largest provider of family mediation in England.

“This leads to a high proportion refusing to take part, scuppering the prospect of a mediated settlement. As a result, the separation then has to go through a lengthy and confrontational court process, with a final settlement imposed on the family by the court.

"But the new Government funding could signal a sea change, with the first mediation session free for both people even where just one of them qualifies for legal aid.

“People who are separating sometimes do not fully understand exactly what they are paying for since mediation is usually an unknown quantity, so they are unsure it will work, causing them to be more reluctant still to pay for mediation.

“Family mediation puts families in control of their post-separation future instead of handing it over to clogged family courts. It’s a much quicker, less confrontational and better value way of settling family breakdown than heading off to court," she said.