40 Years of Family Mediation

Since our founding in 1982, we have been working hard to provide a high standard of family mediation to our clients, and we are proud to have grown and served so many over the past four decades.

To commemorate this milestone, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on our history and the history of family mediation, as well as celebrating our successes and introducing you to some of the people behind the scenes here at National Family Mediation.

Our History

Swindon Office

1982 – National Family Conciliation Council (Now NFM) Founded

Through the desire to help combat the distress of divorce by helping couples in dispute extract a liveable future from what was once their family, National Family Conciliation Council, now NFM, was formed to co-ordinate out-of-court mediation. Starting out with 45 mediation services as members and headquarters in Swindon.

Thelma Fisher

1989 – First Director Appointed & National Core Training Programme Launched

In 1989 we appointed our first-ever Director, Thelma Fisher OBE. Thelma went on to serve as CEO for 10 years.

Also in this year a group of 18 mediators came together to identify the process, knowledge and skills of Family Mediation and agreed the code of practice to train as a Family Mediator.

We subsequently launched a National Core Training Programme for the development of family mediation practice and Family Mediators and we continue our successful training programmes today, with hundreds of people training as a Family Mediator for more than 30 years.

1990’s – Renamed as National Family Mediation

National Family Conciliation Council became the National Association of Family Mediation and Conciliation Services and was eventually known as it is today, as National Family Mediation in 1999.

NFM moved offices from Swindon to London and over this decade grew to 63 mediation services as members.

1998 – Family Law Act & Legal Aid for Family Mediation Introduced

The Family Law Act 1996 was introduced by the UK Parliament in an attempt to modernise divorce.

Legal Aid was also made available for Family Mediation and enabled anyone who was applying for legal aid for their divorce to find out more about mediation before heading straight to court and litigation.

2004/2005 – A New CEO, Another Office Move & The Start of Children’s Rights, Parents Responsibilities

In 2004 Jane Robey took over as CEO of National Family Mediation and the headquarters moved from London to Exeter.

2005 ‘Parental Separation – Children’s Needs & Parents Responsibilities’. The Government starts to recognise the scale of the problem for divorcing and separating families and the impact it has on children.

2007 – Mediation – Past, Present & Future Book Published

Celebrating 25 years of Mediation, the Mediation – Past, Present & Future book is published which examines the origins of family mediation from its beginnings as an innovative local service in Bristol in the 1970s, through to its establishment as an integral part of the family justice system.

2008 – Family Mediation Council Established

In 2008 the Family Mediation Council was established after mediation bodies recognised the need for a regulator to speak with one voice to Government – NFM was a founding member.

2010 – NFM Direct Launched & Family Justice Review Consultation

In 2010 NFM launches NFM Direct – providing direct family mediation services through a team of mediators.

Also in 2010, the Government undertook  ‘ The Family Justice Review’. The report shone a spotlight on an ancient and under-resourced system in urgent need of reform making 144 recommendations to improve the family justice system.

2015 – Compulsory MIAM’s Introduced & First TV Series On Family Mediation Airs

In 2015 the Government launched compulsory MIAM’s before applications to court can be made – to improve the uptake of mediation and to help divorcing or separating families to agree issues outside of court.

2015 also saw NFM take part in a 3 part documentary series air called ‘Mr v Mrs – Call the Mediator‘. This fly-on-the-wall documentary followed divorcing and separating families through their experience of mediation. Watched by over 1m people each episode it transformed NFM’s public profile and saw mediation referrals skyrocket.

2020 – Online Mediation Becomes Available & Current Chair, Carol Reay Joins NFM

In 2020, online mediation became available to clients, primarily due to the Covid pandemic. However online mediation was welcomed by clients and continues today.

We also welcomed a new Chair of Trustees, Carol Reay who joined during the height of the pandemic. You can find out more about Carol in the below video where she talks about her role at NFM and her highlights so far, as well as what she belileves the future holds for NFM.

2021 – Family Voucher Scheme Launched

2021 saw the introduction of the Government’s Family Mediation Voucher Scheme. A voucher of £500 to be used towards Family Mediation for families who need to agree parenting issues and designed to help combat the backlog in the Family Courts due to the pandemic. As of today 10,000 family vouchers have been used – helping families to keep their disputes away from court.

2022 – Introduction of No-Fault divorce

In 2022 a landmark reform was introduced aimed at reducing conflict between separating couples.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020), represented the biggest shake-up in divorce law for more than half a century. It removed the need for separating couples to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage, helping them instead to focus on key practical decisions involving children or their finances and look to the future.

2023 – A New CEO

Sarah Hawkins, formerly operations manager at National Family Mediation (NFM) is named as the charity’s new CEO, taking over from Jane Robey who retired after almost 20 years in post.

Hear from some of the NFM team

As part of our 40th celebrations, we asked our Trustees, Mediators and service Managers to share with us what NFM means to them, their thoughts on the benefits of Family Mediation and what they think the next 40 years will hold for both NFM and Family Mediation. Take a look at the interviews below :

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Current Chair of NFM Trustees, Carol Reay, talks about why she joined NFM, shares her highlights so far, and talks about her hopes for NFM over the next 40 years,

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Mike Stepan is an NFM Mediator as well as a long-serving NFM Trustee. Hear why Mike decided to become a Family Mediator and what he feels is unique about NFM’s approach.

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James Leech is the newest Trustee for NFM. Hear why he joined the board of trustees and hear his thoughts on NFM and its future.

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Alison Morgan, Director of MiD Mediation, one of NFM’s member services tells us what it means to be part of NFM, how their service benefits families and how Family Mediation has changed over the last 40 years.

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Thowheetha Shaah has been a mediator for over 20 years. Read why Thowheetha decided to become a Family Mediator, what she enjoys most about the role and what she believes it takes to be a good mediator.

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Hilary Keogh is a family mediator at Portsmouth Mediation Service, one of NFM’s member services. She talks about the benefits of being part of NFM, how family mediation benefits families and her hopes for family mediation going forward.