The face of Family Law is constantly changing and the current attitude amongst many practitioners is that Court proceedings should be avoided wherever possible.
For many parting couples the process of separation can be a difficult and emotional time.
Mediation is a structured process through which parties in a wide variety of disputes attempt to find their own solution with the help of a trained mediator. Mediation is usually substantially cheaper and quicker than litigation. It is flexible and informal. The aim of mediation is to assist parties in reaching a fair and sensible resolution without the costs and stresses of contested court proceedings. Mediation is not a form of counselling. The objective of Mediation is to help you come to decisions on issues such as child care and financial arrangements. The role of the mediator is not to impose decisions on you, but to act as a neutral facilitator in your negotiations process. As from 6th April 2011 it became compulsory for the majority of couples seeking a divorce or separation to attend a mediation assessment meeting, the aim of which is to ascertain whether mediation is appropriate in your circumstances. Meetings with the mediator usually take place with both of you in the same room, on neutral ground at our offices. In some cases, it may be more appropriate for mediation to take place with the couple in separate rooms. Everything discussed with the mediator is confidential. You and your mediator sit down together and try to work out a Memorandum of Understanding which covers all the issues such as what will happen to the family home, where the children will live, how they spend time with each parent, and a financial settlement. Lines of communication are established and you take control over decision-making, over your own lives and your children’s future. You will be encouraged to focus on your futures and to look forward to developing new and separate lives. The aim is to reach decisions in a constructive, dignified and non-adversarial way.
What Mediation Is
- A process whereby a separating couple/family members negotiate about the arrangements for their future with the help of a neutral third party
- A safe place for separating couples/family members to resolve their differences at their own pace with an opportunity to recognise and address the needs of the children
- A way of helping couples to reach agreements based on needs, concerns and interests
- A voluntary process and typically less stressful than court proceedings
- Confidential (subject to disclosure of financial information and any concerns about harm to children)
- Inclusive – decision making rests entirely with the participants. The separating couple/family members are treated as the experts in dealing with their children, their finances and their future
- Future focus – whilst it is understandable that parties may wish to talk about what has gone on in the past, the focus is on how best to move forward with a practical eye on the future
What Mediation Is Not
- An attempt at reconciliation. However it is designed to improve communication between participants for the benefit of their separated family going forward.
- Counselling. Mediation is an independent and impartial negotiation process. A mediator can and should in appropriate circumstances provide details of counselling services.
- A substitute for legal advice. The family mediator will most often suggest that each party takes legal advice. The lawyer mediators in particular will have the knowledge and expertise to provide even-handed legal information to the participants thereby often reducing the input needed by lawyers and consequently the overall legal costs.
- An opportunity for one party to abuse the other. Safeguarding checks are carried out prior to entering the mediation process and safeguarding runs like a thread through the process and issues of power imbalances and abuse are aspects on which the mediator will be looking out for at all stages. Mediation will be terminated if it starts to become abusive.
- Legally binding. The mediation process is not legally binding of itself, but the outcome can most often be converted into a legally binding agreement or indeed a court order by the parties’ own solicitors.