When a relationship breaks down, the first step isn’t always to head straight to court, but often to try mediation first. It is a voluntary process involving a third party to facilitate discussions between two parties in a number of meetings following relationship breakdown. Issues relating to divorce, financial aspects and children can all be discussed in a safe forum, which can then often lead to flexible agreements between parties that could not otherwise be ordered in court proceedings. Areas such as house ownership, pensions, child arrangements and maintenance payments can all be covered in a more relaxed environment. This can be particularly helpful in complicated children cases, or in difficult financial cases where liquidity might be an issue and a rather more creative approach is required.
It only works however for people who are willing to cooperate with each other and who want a constructive and pragmatic approach, with honestly being at the forefront. Individuals can choose to be in the same room with each other. Alternatively, the mediator can work between 2 rooms/2 parties.
The process? Your lawyer will recommend a mediator, and you are then able to choose your own timescales to work to, the number of meetings needed and the timing of the meetings. The client remains in control, unlike the process in court proceedings, when deadlines etc are set and imposed by the court with very little flexibility.
The benefits? Initially there are potential cost savings, as you are not paying two lawyers, or court fees. The ability to “craft” a bespoke arrangement suitable for your family is a huge positive. Mediation often removes the tensions caused by the court room, and the pressure of a final trial. Court proceedings by their very nature, are often very imposing and adversarial in nature, with a completely different approach by the lawyer, as their focus in court, is to simply to win their client’s case.
Mediation provides a different mindset therefore, for both the client and the lawyer, and provides for a more informal and relaxed approach. It should be noted there are situations whereby mediation is not always appropriate, for example in cases of domestic violence, if there are issues relating to dishonesty, or if one party is using it as an opportunity to bribe the other into an inappropriate outcome. It can however result in a more amicable separation, which is very rare after the conflict and challenges in a courtroom, so in the majority of cases should always be considered.