The Ministry of Justice is responsible for developing policy on alternative methods of dispute resolution.
Courts should be the last resort for people involved in civil or family disputes.
Mediation, in particular, can be a flexible, speedy and cost effective way to resolve disputes. It is a confidential process that enables both parties to explain and then discuss what their needs and concerns are to each other in the presence of an independent third party – the mediator – so that they reach an agreement between themselves.
The individuals concerned have greater control and responsibility in resolving disagreements rather than lawyers or the courts. In this way, mediation empowers parties to control the length of the process, the issues they would like to discuss, and the outcome.
Mediation and civil disputes
Mediation can be used to resolve a whole range of everyday disputes – including housing issues, business disputes, small claims, debt claims, boundary disputes, employment disputes, contractual disputes, personal injury and negligence claims as well as community disputes such as nuisance or harassment issues.
The Civil Mediation Directory is an online tool listing a number of local and national civil and commercial mediation providers, all of whom are accredited by the Civil Mediation Council.
You can search the directory for a mediation provider that is local to you; and the cost of mediation is based on a fixed fee, depending on the value of the dispute.
Mediation and family cases
Mediation can be particularly beneficial where there is a continuing relationship following dispute resolution – such as in family cases. Where decisions about contact and residency of children are being made family mediation can help reduce hostility and improve chances of long-term co-operation where this is necessary, for example in agreeing arrangements for child contact.
There are a range of national mediation organisations that can either help you directly or put you in touch with someone in your area. The details of the main ones are below, but you can find more information by searching for ‘mediation’ on direct.gov.uk.
Small Claims Mediation Service
The Small Claims Mediation Service deals with monetary claims under £5,000 that are already going through the courts. If both parties agree to using mediation, they will be contacted by the service. As most cases are dealt with by telephone, they save the time and the expense of having to go to court.