Every year around 55,000 families in disputes over children end up in the courts.

Whether it’s dividing up a child’s time between parents or matters of money, families often struggle to agree.

Drawn-out legal disputes are stressful, costly and particularly tough on children.

Research shows relationships between parents matter, including when they part.

They impact on how children do at school, their behaviour and their own relationships.

A messy break-up can cause lasting damage. It’s far better for children when parents separate on civil terms.

We want to protect as many children as possible from the anguish of a combative divorce.

Our courts face unprecedented pressures following the pandemic. Mediation offers a way through.

Rather than a judge making decisions, mediation means couples work together to reach agreements with the support of a third person.

We know it works. Our voucher scheme has helped over 15,300 families access mediation and I want more to benefit. That’s why

I’ve extended funding for two years, with an investment of £15million. The scheme has had a 69 percent success rate and we want more families to take this swifter, less costly and more constructive route.

Mediation would only be pursued where it’s a safe option. Clear exceptions are cases involving domestic abuse or child protection concerns. These cases must go to court.

Cutting disputes clogging up courts means we’ll free space so such serious safeguarding cases can be heard sooner.

We’ll also look at how we can empower judges to hold accountable those who don’t take mediation seriously – people who draw out cases could be in line to pay court and mediation costs.

Mediation isn’t a magic bullet.

But it can help families move on more quickly, sparing them – and especially their children – the emotional scars that often last a lifetime.

Our reforms would put children and the family first, end the trauma that accompanies a messy legal separation and ensure cases of domestic abuse get to court sooner.

The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP is Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister

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