SEPARATED parents in Herefordshire are to get help from a new government-funded project, which will begin in the county's family proceedings court this week.

The At-Court Mediation project aims to help separated parents work together and resolve ongoing conflict so they can support their children better through a difficult time.

It seeks to divert parents away from courts where appropriate, and help them negotiate instead.

Herefordshire is one of just three pilot areas for the project, which runs until March 2015 with the others taking place in Berkshire and West Yorkshire.

With funding from central government, operators National Family Mediation will work together with judges, The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, legal advisors and other local stakeholders to deliver the project.

Jackie Norton, project manager from NFM, said: “This promises to be a great resource for separating families in Herefordshire. Often parents get involved in battles that can go on for years and it is difficult for them to break out of the conflict. This new initiative offers an excellent opportunity for parents to find a way of removing themselves from the battle field. The real winners will be the children, who struggle to cope when their parents argue.”

Delivered by specialist mediators, accredited by the Legal Aid Agency, the scheme will raise awareness of non-confrontational methods of resolving family breakdown, including family mediation.

It aims to assist hundreds of parents who have been separated for more than two years, and who are currently undergoing court processes over child-related issues.

The free service will provide in-court mediation and conflict reduction, with one-to-one support for parents as they work through specific areas of conflict.

There will also be support to help them communicate more effectively with each other and their children.

Philippa Frost, one of the mediators, added: “The service is designed to be accessible to all Herefordshire residents as, following the first meeting at court, parents will be able to attend mediation and coaching sessions, not only in Hereford, but also in Ledbury, Leominster, Ross and Kington.”

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