Family mediators understand that when relationships break down, talking face to face can seem the hardest thing to do. Skilled mediators can help the process by keeping communication channels open and working with couples together to reach the right decisions about their futures.
And here at Bonallack and Bishop, we are big fans of family mediation – though we accept it doesn’t suit everybody.
Using a mediator as a means of resolving disputes between separating couples is becoming increasingly popular in family law. Mediation receives the full support of the UK government and judiciary as a means of sorting out issues between separating couples, and encourages communication and negotiation at every stage.
Our pair of experienced jointly accredited Lawyer/Mediators offer family mediation services throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover and Amesbury.
How does family mediation work?
- Your mediator may have a number of sessions with you and your partner in an attempt to assist you reaching agreement – up to 6 sessions lasting up to a couple of hours is not unusual.
- Family mediators provide impartial guidance in helping you both agree on a fair and practical solution.
- You may seek advice from your own independent solicitor at any stage on what is right for you.
- When you have both reached an agreement you are content with, your own solicitor will help you complete the legal formalities.
- Resolution-trained family mediators routinely conduct mediation alone. However they can, if you wish, work alongside a second mediator.
Why use a Family Mediator?
Mediation can really help tone down the emotional heat and in particular:
- It can cut the emotional cost of divorce or separation by reducing hostility between the parties.
- Family mediators often speed the whole process up – whether it be a divorce case or disagreements about arrangements for children – simply by getting couples together to work out a solution rather than exchanging seemingly endless correspondence between solicitors.
- The process avoids expensive court battles. Just one mediator is able to act for both parties in any family dispute – the specially trained ‘lawyer mediator’. There can be significant advantages in appointing such mediators as they have both specialist legal knowledge and mediation skills. Much of the legal work can be done by just one lawyer mediator at the same time, significantly reducing legal fees.
- Because mediation keeps couples talking, it can have a hugely positive effect on children who benefit simply from knowing their parents are working together to sort things out.
- The process encourages couples to work out their own solutions, leading to the best outcome for everyone involved.
How family mediation can help you
Couples going through a relationship breakdown, or other family members experiencing problems, can benefit from mediation services in a number of ways including:
- Divorce or separation;
- Disputes over residence or contact arrangements for children;
- Unmarried relationships;
- Problems in a same sex relationship;
- Grandparents or other family members experiencing difficulties in seeing children.
Why choose one of our Family Mediators?
Family mediators provide impartial advice and assist couples in reaching practical solutions which seem fair for all involved. What makes our Resolution trained family mediators, Amanda Trappes-Lomax [who is based in our Salisbury office] and Kate Brown [who covers Andover and Amesbury] so special, is that they are also highly experienced and qualified specialist family Legal Executives who understands the law in addition to their mediation skills – and Amanda is also a fully accredited collaborative lawyer.
The need for a jointly qualified lawyer/mediator
Quite a few family mediators have no legal training or qualification. However there are real advantages in appointing a jointly trained ‘lawyer mediator’.
Why? A lawyer/mediator has both specialist legal knowledge and experience as well as mediation skills – and as a result much of the legal work can be done by just one lawyer/mediator at the same time, significantly reducing legal fees.
Why appoint a mediator without any legal training when you can appoint a fully legally trained specialist with many years of experience as a lawyer as well.
How long does mediation take?
The time needed for family mediation to reach an agreement or settlement depends entirely upon the issue or issues being discussed, their complexity, the availability of both parties and their mediator for meetings and, most importantly of all, the willingness of the parties to co-operate.
However, as a very rough guide, the average case takes perhaps between 3 and 5 mediation sessions of up to an hour and a half each.
What won’t mediation do?
It is important to understand the role that the family mediator plays and crucially, what the mediator won’t try to do.
- Although mediation is targeted at making dispute resolution following relationship breakdown easier, it’s important to remember that your family mediator is not a marriage counsellor, and therefore they won’t attempt to repair your relationship
- Your mediator won’t give either of you advice. Their role is informative and they must be completely impartial throughout the process. If you want your own independent legal advice, you will need to instruct your own family law solicitor.
- Family Mediators are not judges. Your mediator is there to guide parties and help them make their own decisions and agreements
Do I keep my own solicitor for advice?
Family mediation works best where each of the couple’s own solicitors are available to advise before and/or between mediation meetings – as well as to to draft the court documents and orders that allow any agreement reached in mediation to become legally binding.
Is Family Mediation really cheaper and quicker?
Yes, and that’s not just our experience.
According to the “Value for Money Report” by the National Audit Office [the Government sponsored auditor of public funds] the average family law case is resolved by mediators in an average of only 110 days – compared with 435 days for the average non-mediated and court resolved settlement.
In addition, the same National Audit Office report found that the average mediation settlement cost £2258 less in legal fees when compared to court resolved disputes.
Can family mediation help children?
This is one of the biggest potential advantages of family mediation, and there is plenty of evidence to back this up.
Recent surveys by both Relate [the UK’s largest provider of relationship support] and Netmums [the online parenting organisation] amongst others, have shown the potentially very damaging effects of disputes between their parents when that relationship broke down.
Family mediation can play a really important role in helping children cope with a parental bust up. In particular, not only does the speed of a mediation settlement help them, but most importantly they see their parents working together to find an answer without unnecessary hostility and bitterness.
If you have children, and you’re going through a relationship breakup, it’s well worth considering seeking the help of family mediator, purely for its positive effect on your young ones.
What is a MIAM?
MIAM stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.
If you make any application to court to look at any dispute following relationship breakdown, a MIAM is the first stage. In an attempt to avoid unnecessary and expensive court hearings, the judge will normally require you to attend a MIAM to see if your case is suitable for mediation.
A MIAM involves meeting with a family mediator who will give you an initial explanation about how mediation works and how it might help you, given your particular circumstances. It is normally shorter than a full mediation session – lasting perhaps around 45 minutes.
MIAM meetings will normally involve both parties – but if there is any reason why you feel that you can’t be in the same room as your ex-partner, your mediator can set up 2 individual one-to-one meetings with each of you instead.
Am I guaranteed confidentiality?
The matters discussed during the mediation process are completely confidential so you can feel free to openly discuss all issues of concern.
No details of any agreements or the points discussed will be shared with anyone outside the mediation session without your permission – and that includes any lawyers you’ve instructed. The only information that does need to be disclosed is certain information required by the courts – such as full disclosure of both parties financial position when negotiating a financial settlement following divorce.
Is a settlement reached at mediation legally binding?
In short, no.
However normally any agreement reached is then converted by solicitors into a formal document and often, especially when a divorce final settlement is involved, then sent to the court for approval. In all normal circumstances neither party nor their solicitors need attend at court – but judges do emphasise that it isn’t simply a rubber stamping exercise, and if they see anything in the paperwork that they’re not sure about, they may ask for an explanation before granting any court order.