Mediation is a way of trying to sort out family disputes without having to go to Court. It can also be a way of reaching an agreement on some of the sticking points before appointing a solicitor and going to Court. Mediation is important to consider where a couple’s relationship has broken down and they need to reach an agreement on things such as arrangements for children, financial matters, housing matters, and division of other assets. “Mediation doesn’t replace legal advice but can be invaluable when dealing with practical issues, for example, the fine detail of contact arrangements involving the children. If both parties are prepared to mediate then it does suggest that, at the very least, the parties are willing to try and resolve matters amicably rather than fighting through the courts.” (Alison Whistler, Head of Matrimonial and Family Law).
What is Mediation?
Couples who are separating or divorcing can choose to attend mediation. These sessions will be run by a qualified Mediator who is unbiased and neutral. He or she is not there to make decisions but to enable and encourage positive conversation which hopefully leads to agreements on many of the issues. Mediation is a voluntary process and cannot be forced on either party. Mediation also does not need to be face-to-face with your ex, as it can take the form of “shuttle mediation”, where the mediator moves between the parties who are in separate rooms. Mediation is based on fairness.
Why is Mediation Important?
When a relationship breaks down, couples find it very hard to talk to each other and to reach an agreement on things such as how time with the children will be shared; where both will live; how the finances will be split.
Mediation can save money.
Both parties may well end up appointing a solicitor, but the more things that can be agreed through mediation, the less it will cost, and the more money will be left in the pot to divide.
Mediation can save time.
If things can be resolved through mediation meetings, then this will take much less time than having to go through a long-drawn-out legal wrangle between solicitors.
Mediation is less stressful.
If you and your partner can be supported to communicate more easily then it is likely that an agreement will be reached which will avoid unnecessary stress on you and the rest of your family. Stress can have a big impact on children and their well-being.
Mediation gives you control.
You and your partner will be able to make the decisions about the future rather than having it made for you by a Judge in Court. This will make you both feel empowered and can help with the ‘moving forward’ process.
5 Tips when considering Mediation
1. Consider mediation early on. The sooner a couple can begin to communicate, the better the chance of a positive outcome.
2. Book a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see whether it is right for you.
3. The law requires couples to attend a MIAM before taking a case to Court. The only exception is if domestic abuse is involved.
4. Consider whether you both want your child or children to attend and if so, find a Mediator who is trained in this area.
5. Keep an open mind and open lines of communication. A Mediator will help both parties to have their say and to be heard.
Mediation can make such a difference at such a difficult time. It may even enable you and your partner to communicate in a more positive way going forwards. During a divorce and separation, emotions will be heightened, stress levels will be stretched and the legal process may seem daunting. If a Mediator can help both parties to feel a little more in control and able to agree a clear way forward then the benefits will be huge for everyone. Even if you eventually end up using a solicitor for the remainder of the process, the mediation process should go some way to easing the emotional and financial burden of the divorce or separation.
Further information on mediation services can be obtained from: