Mediation Now, the family mediation service, is now up and running in new premises in East Street, their biggest move yet.
Plans to develop operations were brought forward by the recent changes in legal aid, which has led to an uptake in mediation. In 2010 the government announced plans to reduce their family legal aid bill by up to 75%, and made mediation a part of the legal process. Legal aid is protected for mediation, and remains the only real cost effective option for many people undergoing family crisis.
“The opening of Mediation Now’s Havant office is an important step towards realising our goal of coverage for the South East of England and is the first of many important changes for the company over the coming two years, responding to huge changes in the legal services market” says Director Claire Webb. “We have already seen a big gap in the market for people who simply cannot afford to pay for legal representation. It is also the governments preferred way of resolving family issues, and legal aid will continue for mediation whilst being withdrawn from solicitors”.
She continued “we have also overhauled the way in whcih we will be charging clients. We are making our private fees more affordable by linking them to income. In effect we are means testing private clients to make sure that mediation remains a realistic option, and enabling families to obtain crucial legal information that could have a huge impact upon them”.
Mediation helps couples and families who find it difficult to agree about how to look after children or split up property and possessions. It saves time and money, and can often be free for those on a low income. Above all it allows people to have a hand in the decision making process, and helps them communicate better. Research shows that solutions reached through mediation often last much longer than those imposed by a Court.
Helen Savage said “our mediators are entirely independent and impartial, and work with a couple to reach solution that they can move forwards with. They won’t take sides and will keep all the discussions confidential – mediation is also legally privileged. The main advantage of using Mediation Now is that our mediators are also expert family lawyers, some still in practice, who can give clients the benefit of the wide experience and knowledge of the law”.
Mediation Now was started in 2007 by three local lawyers dissatisfied with the confrontational approach to family breakdown. It now has five mediators, a coaching service, offers family mediations, communication skills sessions and appointments for children and plans to develop parenting courses shortly. It is one of only a few mediation services locally to have a legal aid franchise for family mediation, with offices in Emsworth, Fareham, Havant, Petersfield and Portsmouth.