New call-back system for family mediation service

New call-back system for family mediation service

Pictured (left–right): Carol Gallagher, Fiona McAuslan and Garrett Murphy.

The Legal Aid Board’s family mediation service has launched a new call-back service aimed at making free mediation more accessible to families.

Free mediation is available to families who have undergone a divorce, separation or living apart, as well as those navigating challenges in the aftermath of these decisions, in the areas of parenting, finances and the family home.

The new call-back service, which can be accessed at, allows individuals to make first contact with the family mediation service.

Fiona McAuslan, director of the family mediation service, said: “Looking at the courts data, we have seen a 71 per cent increase in divorce in the High Court since 2017.

“As we know, the breakdown of a marriage or relationship brings families into an unexpected and unplanned journey of change and transition. It is a stressful and difficult time, with many people underestimating the challenges that such a transition brings.”

Addressing members of the public, she said: “Our family mediation service is your partner in building a plan for your brighter tomorrow. This service empowers you to navigate disputes through understanding, communication and compassion.

“Through understanding, we provide guidance towards harmonious resolutions that prioritises everyone’s wellbeing. Through communication, we are committed to facilitating respectful conversations that enable families to work together. And through compassion, we help families lay stronger foundations for healthier relationships in the future.

“In particular, we have found that decisions taken together during the mediation process are more likely to be honoured by both sides going forward. By contacting us on our new call back service, you can start the journey of building a plan for your better tomorrow, with our staff on hand and ready to help.”

The family mediation service puts particular emphasis on the impact on children. There has been a 14 per cent increase in family law cases in the District Court since 2020.

“What we have found in our service is that it is not the divorce, separation or living apart itself that is the most affecting to children, but the emotional impact of changes in their home life,” Ms McAuslan said.

“Through our parenting plans, you can agree how best to share time with the children, how to manage responsibilities, and how to make decisions about the children that takes into account the child’s needs and interests. School arrangements, child care, holidays — even pocket money can all be part of these parenting plans.”

Welcoming the launch of the new call-back service, justice minister Helen McEntee said: “Mediation has an important role to play in family justice. That is why a key goal of my family justice strategy focuses on promoting more co-operative, less adversarial ways for individuals, children and families to resolve disputes.

“The strategy emphasises the need to provide families with more information and supports encouraging the use of alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate, to resolve their problems.

“As a strategy partner, the Legal Aid Board has done tremendous work to help achieve these aims, from providing staff training on how to advise members of the public on mediation and the services available, to establishing an advanced family mediation trainee programme in 2022, which nine trainees completed last year.

“This new call-back service is another important initiative that will make it easier for families to access the right services and supports during a really difficult time in their lives.”

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