When you need legal advice following a change in your family situation, discussing with your adviser how best to approach the issues is one of the first steps. There are different ways of tackling what can be sensitive and hugely important issues, all of which have their own merits. One approach available is Family Mediation.
What is Family Mediation?
Sometimes people think that mediation is like relationship counselling. It is not. Family Mediators are professionals trained to help separated couples discuss arrangements for their children and to discuss how to deal with their money and property. The purpose of mediation is to help the separated couple find the solutions that work for them and to make decisions for the future.
Mediation is a voluntary process. Although the court has the power to refer parties to a mediation service, in reality, individuals cannot be forced to attend mediation.
Referral – in most cases, a referral to a mediation or mediation service is made by the solicitors acting for their clients who have agreed to mediate.
The initial meeting – this is the opportunity to find out more about the mediation process and the mediator can answer any questions. The mediator will also use this meeting to ask questions to assess if mediation is the right approach, and what issues need to be considered. This first meeting takes place individually with the mediator – your ex-partner will not be present during your initial meeting.
The Joint Meeting: If, after the initial individual meetings have taken place, all parties want to continue with mediation, a joint mediation meeting is arranged. There may be one joint meeting or several joint meetings depending on what issues need to be discussed.
What can be discussed at mediation?
Sometimes, the separated couple may only use mediation to discuss care arrangements for the children or only to discuss the financial matters arising from their separation. Some separated couples may wish to discuss both at mediation.
The mediation process is flexible and can be structured in a tailored way, so as to suit the individual circumstances of the separated couple.
Mediation is a privileged process, and what is discussed in mediation cannot be relied upon in subsequent court proceedings. This is so that parties don’t feel constrained, and feel free to discuss things openly.
The role of the mediator
The mediator is independent, they do not take sides. At the joint meetings, the mediator uses their professional experience and skills to help the separated couple discuss what they need to discuss in relation to their children, finances or both. The role of the mediator is to help the separated couple reach proposals and solutions that will work for them now and in the future. The mediator will not tell you what to do or give you advice.
What are the Benefits?
There are many benefits to mediation, some are set out below:
- Communication – Mediation promotes communication between the parties.By improving the communication, it helps the parties come to their own decisions and find their own solutions. This is especially helpful when the couple have children.
- Cost – the cost of attending mediation is generally less expensive than the costs of relying on a solicitor and Court proceedings.
- Flexible and tailor made – the mediator and separated couple will set an agenda for discussion at each joint meeting. The mediation meetings will be arranged around other commitments of the parties. The parties have the control over what is discussed at mediation and when they want to discuss certain matters.
- Mediation can be used to narrow issues – even if not used to resolve all issues, mediation can be an extremely useful way to narrow issues in dispute. This can save time, stress and cost as the issues to be resolved outside of mediation have been identified and reduced.
If you think family mediation is for you and want to find out more please get in touch with our experienced Family Law team, who are also trained family law mediators who can assist.