Family Mediation Week aims to raise awareness of Mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.
What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which offers a way to deal with family law related issues outside of the Court. Mediation involves parties meeting with a professionally trained mediator to discuss and find ways to resolve problems without the cost, time and stress of Court proceedings.
What kind of issues can be addressed through Mediation?
- Financial claims each party may have following the breakdown of a relationship
- Property disputes
- Disagreements about where a child should live or what the contact arrangements should be for parents or potentially other family members
What are the benefits of Mediation?
There are many benefits to using Mediation to try to resolve problems:
- It is often much quicker than issuing an application to Court
- The cost of Mediation is usually lower than dealing with a case via Court proceedings
- You and your ex-partner ultimately decide the outcome by agreement as to what is in the best interests of your family as opposed to a Judge making that decision and imposing a decision which both parties then have to abide by
- The process can be much less stressful than Court proceedings and encourages a less confrontational approach. It can be appropriate where parties want to preserve and maintain a positive working relationship with the other parent
- Lines of communication are kept open to help air concerns and find solutions to problems. It can also make separation easier on any children as proceedings are more likely to be amicable and structured positively
What happens at Mediation?
The Mediator will first arrange to meet with each party in order to establish whether Mediation is right for them. This is called the Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). If Mediation is considered to be suitable then the mediator will schedule your first Mediation session. It can take several sessions in order for the parties to get all of the relevant information together and reach an agreement.
If Mediation is successful then the mediator will provide each party with a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out the terms of the agreement reached between them. Where this relates to a financial agreement within a divorce, the parties would then be able to prepare a Financial Order by Consent.
If Mediation is not successful, the mediator will provide each party with the certificate to confirm that Mediation has at least been considered and this will then enable either party to apply to Court to resolve the issue.
Do I have to mediate?
Mediation is not currently compulsory although the Court will expect parties to have considered Mediation before applying to the Court to deal with financial or children arrangements. Mediation is not always appropriate and there are exemptions for vulnerable parties particularly where there is a history of domestic abuse or child safeguarding concerns. If these do not apply, the Court may direct parties to a Mediation service before it will deal with an application.
Mediation can take many forms and you do not necessarily have to have Mediation face to face. There are mediators who offer Mediation remotely or where parties stay in separate rooms.
Can I instruct a solicitor before or during the Mediation process?
You can seek legal advice at any stage. Mediators can be solicitors as well but the mediator must remain impartial and therefore if you want legal advice regarding what is in your interests you will need to seek independent legal advice from a different solicitor.
If you would like assistance in preparing for financial disclosure or you would like advice in order to clarify your rights and what would be in your best interests then it is worth instructing your own solicitor.
How can the Family Team at Thompson Smith and Puxon help me?
Our family team is able to refer you to local Family Mediation Services if you would like to explore Family Mediation. If you would like advice or assistance along the way, our family team are able to assist and work with you alongside your Mediation journey.
If you are able to resolve financial arrangements via Mediation, our family team is able to assist in then drawing up a Financial Order to reflect the terms agreed via Mediation. Alternatively if Mediation does not prove to be suitable then we can advise and assist you in relation to making an application to Court.
To find out more about Family Mediation Week, please click here.