COUPLES on the brink of divorce have been told to try mediation before heading to court by a Government minister on a visit to Cambridge.

The Government has chosen January to launch its drive to encourage couples to use family mediators to sort out the terms of a divorce as research shows more people consider splitting up in the first few weeks of the New Year.

During a visit to Cambridge Mediation Service in Regent Street today, Justice Minister and MP for Huntingdon Jonathan Djanogly said couples should try to stay out of family court.

"We fully support marriage but in this day of high divorce rates we recognise the concerns when a break up moves towards the courts, especially when there are children involved," he said.

"[Mediation] is a much less stressful experience, it is a fifth of the cost of court, and it would save a long drawn-out court case."

Mr Djanogly said the experience - where a couple sit down with a trained mediator and discuss solutions for splitting finances or child visitation rights - "empower" the couple as a court case may take the outcome out of their hands.

He was given the opportunity to take part in a separation role play with one of the service's mediator but chose to spectate instead.

The move comes after the Government's new rules in April required couples setting out to contest the terms of their separation in court will first be required to consider mediation. The Government has already poured £10 million into mediation.

Steve Turvill, director of Limoncello in Mill Road, separated from his wife several years ago, turning to mediation when he realised court was getting them nowhere.

"It was excellent. You have this really horrible situation where you are with your solicitor and they will do anything to wind you up," he said.

"The mediation was really useful though we could have done with a bit more guidance on the financial side of things. But it certainly made the separation much more amicable."

Mr Djanogly dismissed cynics who see the initiative as a way of saving money in the courts by reiterating mediation was a much better way to deal with a break up than court.