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Mediation is a process where you discuss with your former partner any issues you may have regarding your children and or finances with the support of another person, a mediator to assist you. The mediators’ role is to support the two of you to talk, look at options, and make decisions. The mediator will not give legal advice, nor will they take sides.
What are the benefits of mediation?
Unlike the court process, in mediation, you make all the decisions. Mediation is voluntary, no one can make you or your former partner come, but by choosing mediation, you are choosing to stay fully in control. Mediation is effective because you know your family best and therefore you are free to choose whatever feels right for you and your family.
If you are coming to mediation because you are separating or getting divorced, mediation is much quicker than the court process and much less expensive. Whilst every couple is different, in our experience, many mediation cases can be resolved in 2-4 sessions.
Mediation is confidential and legally privileged*. What you say in mediation cannot be used in court. This means that you are free to discuss as many options as you wish. Where mediation involves financial disclosure, this information can be placed before a court, but you will not have to prepare your documents twice. The mediator can prepare an Open Financial Statement (OFS) for you which can be used in legal proceedings.
You, your partner or the mediator can stop the mediation at any stage, either because you’d like a break, you need time to think or permanently if you feel the process isn’t right for you. Remember, mediation is about you, for you.
*Confidentiality will be broken if the safety or well-being of another adult or child is at risk
How do I start mediation?
You can start mediation in a number of ways.
If you feel that you could benefit from mediation in your relationship, you can contact us directly. Remember, mediation can support all kinds of issues in family relationships, not just family breakdown. If you’d like to discuss mediation with us you can contact us by phone or email. You do not need to have instructed a Solicitor before you call us and you may decide that you do not need to employ the services of a solicitor, if your issues don’t involve divorce or separation. The mediator will remind you that you are entitled at any stage during the mediation process to employ a solicitor if you wish. If the mediator feels that you would benefit from independent legal advice, they will advise you of this, but won’t give you any legal advice themselves.
If you are already in legal proceedings, you can ask your solicitor to refer you to a mediator. Lots of people find it useful to have a solicitor whilst they are going through the mediation process. It helps them feel that there is someone overseeing the decisions that they are making. It is not the solicitors job in these circumstances, to pick holes in the decisions that you and your former partner have made, but they are there to reassure and advise you if they feel such guidance is needed.
Starting the process – MIAMs
Before you attend mediation, both you and your former partner will be invited to attend a MIAMS meeting. A MIAMs or Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting will take place separately from your partner and is your opportunity to find out more about mediation and how it can help you. All other forms of dispute resolution will be explained to you so that you may make an informed decision. You will be able to ask questions and find out whether the cost of your mediation could be covered by public funding (Legal Aid). The mediator will also assesses whether they think you case is suitable for mediation. Once both of you have been assessed and agreed to undertake mediation, the process can begin.
What happens in mediation?
When you start mediation, the mediator helps you decide what it is you’d like to talk about. It might be contact with the children, money, both of these, and lots of other things. Each of you in turn will be able to say what you’d like to discuss and a list will be drawn up. It’s ok to add things to the list as you go along, or decide that there are things you don’t want to discuss that you thought you did. That’s the great thing about mediation – you get to choose!
Sometimes it take the whole of the first session to decide what’s important to the two of you. This is normal. Once the two of you have decided what you’d like to talk about, the mediator will help you decide what you’d like to discuss first, and help you open up the discussion and ensure that each of you have the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings. The mediator may suggest options to you and help you ‘reality test’ options. ‘Reality testing’ helps you look how an option would work out, it allows you to be as creative with your thoughts and ideas as you’d like, before seeing how they work for you and your family.
As you begin to make decisions and agreements, the mediator will write these down for you. At the end of the mediation process, you may ask your mediator to record all these agreements in a document called a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU. This MOU is a record of the agreement(s) that you have made. It is not legally binding like a Court order, it is a promise between the two of you about what you want to happen. This is the end of the mediation process. If you prefer, you can have the MOU converted into a Court order – a Solicitor can assist you with this.
What happens if my former partner won’t mediate?
From April 2014, applicants in family proceedings will be required to attend a MIAMs prior to issuing court proceedings. This is because the court feels that mediation is good for families overall.
When you’ve been to your MIAMs, your former partner will be invited to attend a MIAMs. They cannot be forced to attend however. If they don’t attend, you will be given a Form FM1 with which you can go to the court will accept as a reason to issue to legal proceedings. However, this does not necessarily mean that you lose the opportunity to mediate. The court may recommend that the two of you go to mediation, and may adjourn your case for you to do that.
Contact Chris Myles, Family Mediator, for help and advice on how Family Mediation could work for you and your family situation.