More couples seeking a divorce are turning to mediation, according to the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales.

National Family Mediation has reported that the number of calls to its helpline have more than doubled in the past year. In the first half of this year it took 3,400 calls each month, up from 1,600 calls during the same period in 2014.

The mediation provider notes that the spike in calls corresponds with figures from the court advisory service Cafcass which show the number of new private law cases between April 2014 and March this year fell by almost a third, to 34,218.

‘Cuts to legal aid mean the routes separating couples are taking as they try to reach settlements are becoming more convoluted,’ Jane Robey, chief executive of National Family Mediation, said.

She suggested that the call figures could suggest that the government’s policy to divert people away from the courts and towards mediation is ‘actually beginning to work’.

‘Couples are increasingly self-researching their options, and this is reflected in the huge increase in calls to dispute resolution specialists,' she said. ‘Our experience tells us people are cogitating, calculating and considering their next move. Our experts are helping more families in crisis than ever before and it’s a challenge to meet the soaring demand.’

But government statistics released last week show fewer divorcing couples are turning to mediation than before legal aid changes came in effect in 2013.

Between April 2014 and March 2015, 8,035 mediation cases were started, down from 13,609 in 2012-13. However the data did show that the number of mediation starts rose in the first half of this year, totalling 2,336, up 33% from the same period last year.