Family Justice minister Lord McNally said: “All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings, but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.”
The average cost of resolving property and financial disputes caused by separation is around £500 through mediation, said the MoJ, compared to £4,000 for issued settled through the courts.
A mediated case will typically take 110 days compared with 435 days for non-mediated cases.
The MoJ’s figures showed that Birmingham and Weston were followed by Leicester County Court in third place with 1,831 petitions, with Romford County Court next with 1,783 and then Coventry with 1,766 petitions in 2011/12.
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the relationship charity Relate, said: “It is not the hotspots of where in country people are getting divorce that is crucial, but the ‘hot points’ in people’s relationships where they feel under pressure that is important, and when people feel under pressure they should not feel worried about getting support.”
Relate said money was the biggest cause of arguments in relationships, adding that a recent Relate survey found that one in five counsellors had seen an increase in clients due to the economic downturn.
The MoJ expects to spend £25m on mediation services this year. It has changed the law so couples seeking a court order over child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation assessment session first.
Mediation services involve the use of an independent and qualified third-party to help couples divide their assets or arrange child contact without going to court.