Family mediation is an approach to settling family disputes and reaching an agreement on issues such as property, finance and parenting. Mediators appreciate that communication after separation can be tough and they are skilled at helping you navigate through the practical and technical matters you have to consider whilst also facilitating your negotiations, even when feelings are running high and cooperation is the last thing you expect from your ex.
Mediation is voluntary: you both have to agree to attend. It is not about trying to keep couples together, but helping them move on to the next stages of their lives. The process typically involves the couple attending a series of face to face meetings in the presence of a professional, trained mediator, who facilitates the discussion. National Family Mediation's professional mediators can help you settle your legal financial emotional and practical issues arising from your divorce or separation.
Mediation is flexible and confidential. It enables you and your ex to settle your conflict in a way that helps you to work together as parents after your divorce. That’s why it can be the best way forward after a divorce or separation especially where children are involved.
The first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This gives you an opportunity to find out what mediation is about, find out if it is suitable for you and your circumstances and look at the issues you have to consider to achieve divorce or separation before taking part in full mediation.
If at a later stage you want to apply to court, the mediator will be able to provide you with the signed declaration required (page 19 of court form C100) before an application can be made.
If you and the mediator decide to continue with mediation, then a further session will be organised. The mediator is neutral during the process. The mediator's job is to make you aware of the things you each need to do to achieve a legal separation and help you to gather the information, facilitate the discussions, and help you develop options and solutions. Mediators cannot give advice or act as a lawyer for either party. Mediation is both confidential and “privileged”, which means you are free to exchange information and ideas without the constraints of fearing these ideas may be used against you at a later date. Because both people are working with the same base of information, it takes far less time to negotiate a resolution that makes sense to you both of them.
There is no hard-and-fast rule about how many mediation sessions are needed before a settlement is reached, because each case is very different. Typically, however, couples will find they attend between three and five sessions before the process concludes.
The length of the process is also shaped by the nature of the issues being mediated. For example, an ‘All Issues Mediation’ case – one involving sorting out property, finance and parenting arrangements – will tend to be more complex than one in which only the finances or children need to be mediated.
Mediation can stall or break down where there is a material disagreement over the facts, for example where one person believes his or her ex has not made a full and frank disclosure about their assets. For this reason, couples undergoing mediation are required to complete the full disclosure process using the relevant paperwork. The financial disclosure made in mediation is not covered by “privilege” and can be used at a later date in court if needed.
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. It is also much quicker than going through a courtroom battle.
However, it does not totally eliminate the need for solicitors. In fact, mediation can sometimes work best where each party has the back-up of a solicitor to provide advice between mediation sessions. When agreement is reached, a solicitor will be able to put it into a binding legal document called a Consent Order. The Consent Order will then need to be be ratified by a family court.