MEDIATION – A BETTER WAY FORWARD

Mediation offers most people a better way of resolving difficult disputes. Sitting down together with an experienced mediator, over one, two or several sessions, offers a high chance of resolving your issues much more cheaply, quickly, and with less harm to future relationships as parents. Mediators can give you information about separation and divorce processes, and make suggestions to you as to what might be helpful to each of you. Mediators do not give advice. It will remain helpful and important to receive individual advice from a solicitor.

Perhaps even more importantly, mediation enables you to make choices for your family, instead of handing decision-making responsibility to others.

Because courts recognise that mediation is a more positive option, anyone thinking of applying to court is now asked if they have first considered mediation. (This is done by attending a short meeting with a mediator: known as a MIAM, this is a Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting.) Legal Aid, if you qualify for it, is available to pay for mediation; otherwise there is a charge, but it is likely you will overall pay considerably less than if you each engaged lawyers to negotiate on your behalf.

Mediation itself always remains voluntary – either or both of you can end it at any time. Nothing in mediation can bind you unless you decide to convert mediated proposals into an agreement. You set the agenda. Everything said is confidential (apart from any concerns about risk to children or adults, and any evidence of fraud). Nobody can use what has been said in mediation in any court proceedings, so people can feel freer to discuss options. You will be asked to make full disclosures about money and property (if that is what you wish to discuss).

For some people it will be too difficult, at least for a while, to sit in the same room with their ex partner. Options then include: caucussing (where the mediator listens to each of you individually and then summarises what each of you has said to you together, or shuttle mediation where people are seen separately, while in the same building - or even in different buildings (using Skype). There are also a few people for whom mediation will not be suitable, such as:

  • where there is a history of violent behaviour, or intimidation, or
  • serious doubts about the disclosure of property; or
  • where someone has health problems – physical or mental – or incapacities thatmake it unlikely that they will be able to make choices

Assessing suitability is an important part of the MIAM (referred to above). For both you and the mediator it is a chance to think about whether mediation is the right process.

INFORMATION MEETINGS

Before you commit to the family mediation process, you will be asked to attend a joint information meeting lasting about an hour at a reduced fee of £100 including VAT each. At the meeting, your family mediator will provide more information about how mediation works and will answer any questions that you may have. Your mediator will help you and your spouse or partner to decide whether family mediation is right for you, or whether some other alternative might be more appropriate. Your mediator will also be able to give you a better idea of likely costs once he or she has discussed the issues with you. If you require a 'mediation information and assessment meeting' certificate for the court, that will be provided without charge after you have attended the information meeting.

THE CHILDREN

Thinking about arrangements for your children is often an important part of mediation. If both of you think it might help, your child or children can to be invited to talk confidentially with a specially trained mediator. This is entirely voluntary on their behalf and, with your permission, the mediator will write to them personally to explain that. He and the children will agree upon what they would like to be fed back to you as parents. This gives the children 'a voice' in a situation where they may be feeling 'invisible', upset or confused - or where divided loyalties could become a problem.

We would also encourage you to look at the ‘Voices in the Middle’ page on this website in order to gain fresh understandings of how your choices can affect children and young people.

We recommend that all separated parents should acquire a copy of the UK edition of ‘Parenting Apart’ by Christina McGhee, [Ebury Press (2011) ISBN 10: 0091939836 ISBN 13: 9780091939830] which provides excellent information and guidance on how you can do the very best to limit any harm that your separation might otherwise cause – but do approach the book (and any guidance) to find out how you (rather than the other parent) can make things better for the children.

MEDIATION - THE END PRODUCT

If the discussions in mediation result in proposals acceptable to both sides, the mediator will write these up and the document should then be shared with a solicitor; the proposals may then, with the consent of both sides, be turned into the form of an order, which can be made binding. Legal Aid is available to pay for legal help and support alongside mediation – provided your solicitor has a legal aid contract..

Family Mediation Council Family Mediators Association College of Mediators Resolution College of Mediators Family Law Panel Sorting Out Seperation