Mediation is an approach to settling disputes and reaching an agreement on issues such as finances or child care. It requires the co-operation of the two parties, no-one can be forced to attend mediation. The process typically involves the couple attending a series of face to face meetings in the presence of a mediator, who facilitates the discussion. Mediators can be, but are not always, legally trained.
The Mediation Process
Mediation is flexible and confidential. It gives you and your spouse a way to settle the conflict between you, which is natural and inevitable, in a way that helps you to work together as parents after your divorce. Mediation tends to work well where the couple are still on talking terms and each party is willing and able to discuss the issue.
The mediator remains neutral between the husband and the wife. That means the mediator can't give advice to either party, and also can't act as a lawyer for either party. What the mediator can do, though, is to point out in open session to both spouses things that each of them should be aware of about what they're trying to accomplish. That open and free exchange of information frees up both spouses to negotiate with each other in confidence. Because both spouses are working with the same base of information, it usually takes far less time to negotiate a resolution that makes sense to both spouses.
Mediation can stall or breakdown where there is a material disagreement over the facts, for example where wife believes husband has an off-shore bank account and he denies it. For this reason couples undergoing mediation should still complete the full disclosure process using Form E.
One of the obvious benefits of Mediation is that it is potentially much cheaper than engaging in a legal battle, costing a few hundred pounds rather than tens of thousands.
However, it does not eliminate the need for solicitors. In fact mediation works best where each party has the back-up of a solicitor. The solicitor can advise their client between mediation sessions and when agreement is reached the solicitor can put that agreement into a binding legal document called a Consent Order. The Consent Order will then be ratified by the court.