What is mediation?
Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution, which is an alternative to Court proceedings. Mediation is voluntary and confidential. Your mediator will be impartial and will not impose decisions upon you. The mediator is unable to provide you with legal advice during the process. They are there to facilitate you and your ex-partner reaching an agreement.
Family mediation is a way of helping families and couples agree what should happen after they separate. A trained mediator will facilitate and encourage discussions between the parties and will help separating couples negotiate a settlement without the need to attend Court.
You will be invited to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (also known as a MIAM) where the mediator will provide you with information about the mediation process and assess whether mediation is suitable for your circumstances. Mediators will consider if one party may be at a disadvantage if the other party has been violent or there are elements of coercive control. You should not be pressurised in to agreeing to participate in mediation in these circumstances. Your ex-partner will also be invited to attend a separate MIAM and if you both wish to proceed, joint sessions will be organised.
Once both parties have agreed to and are approved for mediation, joint sessions can be the two of you together in a room or in separate rooms where the mediator will “shuttle” between you. Since the start of the pandemic, mediation sessions have also moved online with joint meetings taking place remotely. Joint sessions and shuttle mediation are both still possible online and for some clients, it can be less daunting than seeing your ex-partner face to face. If you and your ex-partner live in different areas, remote sessions can make mediation more accessible.
What can family mediators help with?
Family mediators can help married and unmarried couples come to an agreement about arrangements for their children, the family home, the assets and the liabilities incurred as a couple. Mediators can also help parties discuss and agree other issues such as how and when to tell the children about their separation and issues surrounding the divorce process, such as who will commence the divorce process, which fact the divorce will be based upon and agreeing the particulars of behaviour, if these are required. This will become less relevant when the new no fault divorce comes in to force later this year.
It is hoped that by discussing and negotiating with a third party, separating couples can establish a new working relationship to continue after their separation or divorce.
If you are seeking to agree the arrangements for your children, some mediators are trained in Child Inclusive Mediation. If both parents agree, your child can meet the mediator to be able to have their say about the arrangements for their care. This is unusual but if felt appropriate, this may be possible in some cases.
How do I choose a family mediator?
You can use the Family Mediation Council’s “find your local mediator” at https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/find-local-mediator/.
A solicitor can also recommend or locate a mediator for you as they will have experienced working with local mediators in the past.
Do I still need a solicitor when I’m doing mediation?
You do not have to engage a solicitor to begin the mediation process but it can be helpful to first obtain advice on your legal position before commencing the process. A solicitor can help you put together your financial disclosure for mediation sessions about dividing your assets.
You are encouraged to seek legal advice from a family law solicitor during the mediation process and here at Silk Family Law, we can support you through the mediation process and provide advice on the proposals that are put forward during mediation.
If you and your partner are able to reach an agreement in relation to matters regarding your children or your assets, you will be given advice as to whether you will require an Order from the Court. Your solicitor will prepare an Order which will then be filed with the Court to become a legally binding Order. If there are steps to take to implement the terms of your agreement, a solicitor can assist you with this.
Family Mediation Week 2022
Family Mediation Week is taking place 17 to 21 January 2022. The Family Mediation Council seek to raise awareness of family mediation and the benefits of dealing with matters away from Court for separating couples and the family and promoting positive change following a separation.
As a Resolution member, I am supporting Family Mediation Week 2022 along with my colleagues. If you would like to find out more, there are some links below to help you find out more about mediation and Family Mediation Week. Although, Family Mediation Week is one week focussed on mediation and the benefits, mediation is something I look to recommend and promote to clients all year round.
If you would like to explore whether mediation is something you should consider if you are going through or are considering separating from your spouse or partner, you can contact me on 0191 4957189, 07912 228906 and at firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Mediation Resources
Image credit: Photos by Docusign and TienDat Nguyen on Unsplash