Mediation and domestic abuse

Mediation is a process by which practical issues can be resolved following relationship breakdown. Although mediation is generally preferable to the court process, it is not appropriate for every relationship. 

What is mediation?

In mediation, separated partners meet with an independent third-party specialist family mediator. The mediator aims to facilitate discussions between the individuals to reach agreement on disputed issues, such as arrangements for children, finance and property.

Mediation is often cheaper, quicker and less adversarial than going to court. 

Is mediation suitable when a case involves domestic abuse?

Resolution’s Good Practice Guide to Domestic Abuse Cases says that sometimes, the most constructive way of dealing with an allegation of domestic abuse is by going to court, rather than by using dispute resolution processes such as mediation. This may be for several reasons, such as an urgent need for a judge to consider the matter, or due to the survivor of domestic abuse feeling uncomfortable with the idea of mediation.

This is not to say that mediation will never be suitable in cases involving domestic abuse. Each situation is different and in some cases, the separated couple and the mediator may consider it safe to mediate.

A solicitor or mediator can help you to decide whether your case is suitable for mediation. They may use a domestic abuse alert toolkit, which helps them to identify when someone has suffered domestic abuse or violence.

Alternatively, you may prefer to go to court.

Can I go straight to court?

In most cases, it is a legal requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (also known as a ‘MIAM’) before you can go to the Family Court. In the MIAM, a mediator will consider whether the issues in your case can be resolved without going to court.

One of the exemptions to the requirement to attend a MIAM applies when there is evidence of domestic violence. Various forms of evidence are acceptable some of which are "legal" (for example, evidence of an arrest or caution for a domestic violence offence) and others can be provided by other professionals (for example, a letter from your GP or support worker). If you can provide this evidence, you can apply to court without attending a MIAM.

Funding in cases involving domestic abuse

You may be able to get legal aid if you can provide evidence that you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence and you cannot afford to pay your legal costs. Details of what counts as evidence can be found here. Legal aid can be used to pay for court or mediation.

If you are not entitled to legal aid and you wish to mediate, you may be able to get a contribution towards the cost of mediation through the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme.

How can we help?

Mills & Reeve’s specialist family lawyers are experienced in dealing with cases involving domestic violence and abuse. If you would like to speak with one of the team about your case, including its suitability for mediation, please contact us.

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