Middlesbrough barristers have teamed up to offer a family mediation service direct to clients in parts of Yorkshire and north-east England. The ‘collective’, called Divorce Puzzle, will operate ‘lawyer-supported mediation’ at fixed fees starting at £1,350 per party, founder Colette Price said.

The service fuses fixed-fee legal advice with family mediation and aims to resolve family disputes by encouraging effective communication when the impulse among separating partners is to fight.

Price (pictured, second right) said the aim is to fill a gap in representation left by the government’s cuts to legal aid for private family work – and that mediation offered through barristers would be competitive with solicitors’ prices. ‘Data from government shows eight out of 10 people that begin mediation go on to reach agreement.

By providing affordable fixed-fee advice in parallel, we hope to encourage more separating couples to explore mediation,’ she said.

‘The reality is that barristers have lower overheads,’ she added. ‘We’re not about going to war with solicitors, we are trying to look at ways of providing services that people can afford and are realistic. It’s not about undercutting solicitors, it’s about the model proving cheaper for people on the street.’

She admitted that getting the message out to the public ‘will be interesting for barristers, because marketing is not our strong point. It will be a bit of a learning curve.’