In recent years the government has increasingly encouraged couples looking to divorce to consider using family mediation before looking to the Courts to help them in coming to an agreement with regard to either a financial settlement or arrangements for children of the family.
What is family mediation?
Divorce and relationship is a period of time in which tempers are flared and individuals are emotionally fragile. The situation can become even more complex when there is breakdown of communication between ex-partners or spouses. And issues often get worse when the family court gets involved.
Family mediation is different; mediators understand that there is often a high-level of emotion involved during divorce and strives to present a calm and stable environment for couples to discuss their issues.
Mediation presents the chance for spouses to decide both the big and small aspects of their divorce without running up uncontrollable costs.
Meetings are run be an accredited family mediator, who presents topics for discussion and works towards reaching a conclusion between spouses in a non-hostile and calm way. Talks are focused around being honest and open, so any decisions reached aren’t misunderstood or misinterpreted.
The advice of our local Salisbury divorce solicitors ? If you are both the sort of people who can come to an agreement and are prepared to compromise – as distinct from some couples who will inevitably fight over every last item- then mediation may will be right for you.
If you are considering mediation we recommend that;
- Use a dual qualified family mediation/family lawyer to mediate between you, rather than a mediator who is not an experienced family lawyer.we strongly believe that jointly accredited lawyer mediators, provide a better service – they really understand all aspects of family law
- Before your appointment with your mediator, be sure to inform your own divorce solicitor. It is important to note the different roles played by your solicitor and your mediator. A family mediator is entirely independent and will try to help you come to a solution that is reasonable for both parties. However, your solicitor always places your best interests at heart. Don’t let this put you off, but remain aware of it when you start the process of mediation.
As soon as you suspect that you might not be able to come to an agreement between you, you should contact a family mediator. Regardless of the stage you’re at, mediation can help as it consists solely of talking through issues and trying to come to an agreement.
Whether you’ve only just split or even if the case is already going through the court, mediation can help to reduce costs, stress and anxiety.
Is family mediation quick?
It isn’t hard to see why mediation is currently booming in popularity in the UK, as it has many advantages going for it. That’s why here at Salisbury Solicitors, Bonallack and Bishop, we are big fans of the approach and why 3 of our family and divorce law team are trained and accredited mediators.
In particular, and in our experience, the speed at which issues are usually resolved during mediation far outdo that of court based proceedings.
Some couples may even be able to wrap up their issues in just one or two meetings. It will be longer for others, but in general divorce or other family law issues are decided upon far faster than any court based divorce.
Family mediation – your first appointment
As a couple considering divorce, the government say that you should have a minimum of one mediation awareness session – the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is supposed to allow you and your spouse to gain a greater understanding of the mediation process, and whether or not it will work for your particular situation.
At the first appointment, the vast majority of good family solicitors will actively encourage you to try out the process of mediation. However, for various reasons, there are some couples who simply are not suited to mediation. For example, in circumstances where one partner has abused the other or the children, physically, sexually or psychologically the family mediation option is immediately excluded.
But Does Family Mediation Actually Work?
In our experience the answer is simple – absolutely, but only for some couples, who are willing to listen to each other, compromise and cooperate in the search for a solution – and who don’t treat divorce or family breakdown as a battle to be won.
Mediation is much more likely to bring you and your partner to a solution if you both remain reasonable and are prepared to negotiate. It is highly unlikely that you will get everything that you want through mediation – but the same can be said for using the Courts.
In some cases, mediation will be impractical and you will have to use the Courts. For example, your ex-spouse may be highly unreasonable, or there may be an awkward and complex problem that needs to be dealt with, such as the sale of the home you lived in when you were a couple.
Mediation can really help your children
A recent study by the relationship support charity Relate of nearly 1000 families found that 58 percent of the separated parents did not believe that a ‘good’ separation was possible when children are involved. Further, over half of the parents acknowledged that regardless of their best efforts to minimise the pain of the divorce on their children, that the experience of seperation had a negative impact on their children.
We share the view with Relate that this is yet more evidence of the important role that can be played in divorce and relationship breakdown by family mediators. The whole family mediation process works particularly well when children are involved.
Where children are involved, mediators will also look at living arrangements and properties, and the other with the parents explore all available options to find a solution which both parents can accept. A mediator’s main concern is always the welfare and care of the children, and again they will use their training and experience to encourage the couple to reach agreement.
Family mediation takes child care decisions out of the hands of the family judge – a third party who, in reality, knows nothing about the character of any of the children involved.
In contrast to the distress children suffer when they see their parents fight, they can be significantly reassured by seeing their parents co-operate over what’s best for the children. Any agreement reached at mediation serves as a base for which all-future communication between spouses over children can be built upon. Skilled and experienced mediators can help you achieve that.
How Family Mediation Can Help You – The Evidence
We have argued for a few years now that family mediation enables you to resolve the disputes arising from your relationship breakdown faster and less expensively than court proceedings. However you no longer need to take our word for it as the Value for Money Report from the National Audit Office reaches the same conclusion.
Although the figures included in the report relate to the state of affairs a few years ago, they show that mediation saves people time and money all the same. The court process can take a very long time which subsequently drives up costs. Furthermore, it can lead to great stress for the parties involved and more alarmingly, serve to unsettle any children involved. By contrast, family mediation encourages both parties to work together in order to reach their own agreement about how to settle disputes arising from relationship breakdown. Using family mediators also gives parties control over the way in which things are handled, whereas in court, parties have no say whatsoever in the final judgement.
The figures show that the average case dealt with using family mediation took 110 days which is well over 300 days less than for cases dealt with in court. Equally, the report found it takes close to £2,300 less to settle such disputes through mediation.
So it’s official – family mediation will save you time and money during your separation. Whilst this method is not for everyone, it can be a huge help in circumstances where the ex-partners fee that they can co-operate. Through mediation, everyone can move forward freely.
Is what is discussed in mediation kept confidential?
Put simply, you need not worry. All discussions had during family mediation sessions are entirely confidential and you need not worry about the content of your mediation sessions being discussed with anybody else.
Family mediation and your solicitor – how they work together
The purpose of mediation is for the parties to reach an agreement. Whilst your family mediator may provide valuable information, they are completely independent and impartial and cannot give out any legal advice to either of you. You will need to obtain any further legal advice from your solicitor.
Formalising your family mediation agreement
Remember, agreements made during mediation are not legally binding. In particular the outcome summary (often called a Memorandum of Understanding) that your mediator will draw up at the end of the process to record what has been agreed between you is not a legally binding document.
That’s why it is really important that when using mediation to sort out your property or finance issues in particular, a draft order or legally binding document is drawn up – and is then formally approved by the court and turned into a binding court order.
Without a court order it could be possible for one party to try and re open any agreement and get a better deal from the other side in the future.
Family mediation – do we both have to attend?
In the initial mediation meeting, each of you can meet separately with the mediator if you want. This can be help if you have parted on particularly bad terms, or there has been a history of bullying.
Does mediation ever fail?
Unfortunately, yes. Sometimes mediation simply does not work, and in some cases the only remaining alternative is to go through the courts to get a legal solution for your case.
Salisbury Family Mediation – Call for FREE Initial Phone Advice and a FREE 1/2 Hour Appointment
Being able to resolve your dispute quickly and effectively can be hugely helpfull to everyone involved. And remember it’s not just limited to divorce – can prove really effective in helping you to make arrangements for the custody of children, residence, grandparents’ contact rights and many other issues of dispute surrounding a divorce.
We are one of just three law firms in Salisbury who provide a family mediation service.
Please note that we are only able to take on mediation for private clients. We cannot advise clients entitled to Legal Aid Mediation.
For more information and to find out whether your family law case is well-suited to one of these approaches, call us on Salisbury  422300 or email us using the form today and arrange a FREE first 30 minute appointment;
Bonallack and Bishop, Bonallack and Bishop
Rougemont House, Queensberry House,
Rougemont Close, 5 Salisbury Street,
SP1 1LY SP4 7AW
Tel: Salisbury  422300 Tel: Amesbury (01980) 622992
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