Mediation scheme saves on legal costs

Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 01:00

MORE THAN €100,000 in court and legal costs have been saved by a pilot scheme that made mediation available to family law litigants in Dublin District Court. More savings are possible and there have been considerable non-pecuniary benefits, according to a review of the scheme.

The scheme was introduced last year as a joint initiative of the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Family Mediation Service (FMS) in Dolphin House, where the Dublin District Court hears family law cases.

Those involving custody, access and guardianship accounted for between 35.8 and 47.8 per cent of all cases over the past 10 years, and typically each involves multiple court appearances, according to a review of the scheme seen by The Irish Times.

Due to reorganisation of the courts in Dublin, accommodation became available in Dolphin House and it was agreed to set up a pilot project there offering medication to those making applications for custody, access or guardianship. There were 1,623 such applications last year, and the project began last March.

All those making applications were offered an information session on mediation. If accepted, the FMS contacted the other party to offer such a session. If both parties agreed they attended a joint session and could, if they wished, proceed to mediation.

Between March 2011 and March 2012 more than 800 people were provided with information on mediation, of whom half (399) were referred to mediation. By the end of the review period in March, 293 had finalised agreements and a considerable number of mediations were still in progress and likely to lead to agreement.

The concluded agreements alone saved €113,808 in the cost to the Courts Service of cases not going to court, and more than 90 per cent of the cases involved people who would have been eligible for legal aid.

This meant the Legal Aid Board saved €219,910. The cost of providing mediators and clerical support was €230,976, giving net savings to the State of €102,742.