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Government-backed scheme helps separated parents reach settlements

Government-backed scheme helps separated parents reach settlements

Chief executive of mediation service encourages ministers to 'learn from and extend' the project

A government-funded mediation project aimed at aiding separated parents reach settlements has been a success, new data has found.

At-Court Mediation, administered by family charity National Family Mediation (NFM), helps families to suspend legal proceedings and meet specialist mediators to negotiate long term agreements on children, property, and finance matters.

The pilot scheme provides one-to-one support for parents who had been separated for more than two years and were locked in the family court system.

NFM asked 433 participants for their thoughts before and after their involvement with the project.

Two in three said the quality of contact with their children had improved following the project, while 37 per cent noted a reduction of impact on their children.

Elsewhere parents reported a 32 per cent reduction in the level of conflict with their ex-spouse and 37 per cent recorded a fall in their levels of stress.

Communication between the parties also increased considerably. Before being involved in the project, the parties marked their communication at an average of 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. After the project the average score rose to 4.2.

NFM's chief executive, Jane Robey, said the project has helped families entrenched in conflict to move on with their lives.

'Our mediators helped couples better understand the impact of their behaviour on their children, and become equipped with the skills needed to reach agreements,' she said.

'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.'

Robey encouraged the government to build on the project's success: '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.'

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