Under the new Family Procedure Rules, it is compulsory, if a party is issuing proceedings, to refer the matter to Family Mediation; this is whether the application to be made is for a financial remedy or in relation to children. There are certain exemptions but these are few and far between, and you should expect if you do issue proceedings that you will have to attend at least one Family Mediation session.
What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is an alternative to court proceedings and is used to help separating couples resolve issues such as sorting out the division of their finances, assets and sorting out the living arrangements for their children. The process is facilitated by a neutral third party who aids negotiations and is known as the ‘mediator’.
How does Family Mediation work?
The Family Mediation process is entirely voluntary; and you cannot be made to attend. When considering Family Mediation as the way forward both parties will attend a MIAM. They can either do this together or separately. At the MIAM, the mediator will explain to you what Family Mediation entails and what it will cost. If both parties agree to mediate, the mediator will arrange the first Family Mediation session, which you will both attend together. At the mediation meeting, you will be in the same room as your ex and the mediator. The mediator will set out the agenda for the meeting, which will be agreed by both parties.
The mediator will then help the separating couple raise the issues that you would like to be resolved, they will help you explore those issues and try to help you reach an agreement. All discussions within the mediation process are “without prejudice”, this means that neither party can refer to them if the matter ends up going to court. If an agreement cannot be reached or either party decides they no longer wish to mediate, then the mediation process is ended. If however you do reach an agreement then the mediator will draft what you have agreed for you to take to your solicitor to be drafted into the requisite court order where necessary (you will not need a court order if you reach an agreement over the living arrangements for the children, but you will invariably need one to regulate the division of the finances). In short, what is agreed in Family Mediation is not legally binding; your solicitor will however be able to make any agreement binding by drafting and filing the court order on your behalf. If you do not have a solicitor, then the mediator can draft the requisite court order for you.
How long does Family Mediation take?
The Family Mediation process starts with an initial assessment when you tell us about your situation and we explain how mediation can help you. Then over a period of weeks or months depending on how many joint sessions you will need we work through a structured framework until a mutually agreeable outcome is reached. The joint sessions can last between an hour to 2 hours each. We aim to deal with your mediation case as swiftly as possible but it may take time to resolve.
Who is Family Mediation recommended for/ suitable for?
Family Mediation is recommended for any separating couple going through a divorce or separation except in cases of Domestic Violence when it would not be appropriate and one of the parties would be vulnerable. It is ideal for resolving disagreements over Children, or dividing property or pensions. Unlike the court process mediation is a cheaper and often quicker way of resolving these disputes.
Family Mediation - what are the benefits and cons?
- Control - You stay in control of what happens to your assets and (if applicable) where your children live. You don’t have a judge telling you what to do, you decide and reach a compromise where necessary.
- Cost - You avoid the often eye watering costs of litigation. Mediation is more often than not cheaper and quicker than going to court.
- Compliance - As both parties have signed up to the process compliance and compromise is usually high meaning you avoid the emotional stress that invariably goes with a court battle. Mediation allows you to calmly consider and explore various options and the mediator will help you find common ground, and in the long run the decisions are more likely to be upheld by both parties.
- Support - Whilst you don’t have to have a solicitor, it does help if you have the voice of reason advising you in the background, especially when the mediator is not able to give you legal advice. However, if you chose not to have a solicitor, then your mediator can make sure that the agreement you reach is drafted into the requisite court order (where necessary).
- Mediation relies on being in the same room as their ex partner which some people are unable to do. Whilst “shuttle mediation” is an option, you are likely to be encouraged to sit round the table with your ex.
- Unless you’re mediation relates to the division of marital assets and you have asked the mediator to draft the consent order for you, you will only have a “Memorandum of Understanding” which sets out what you and your ex have decided to do. It is not legally binding and as such is unenforceable. However, remember that decisions that are made by agreement and not forced on you are more likely to work.
How much does Family Mediation cost?
Mediation is not free (unless you are entitled to legal aid), but it is invariably far cheaper than you both instructing your own solicitors to do battle in court.
Most mediators charge an hourly rate that is divided equally between you both. We combine that hourly rate with a fixed fee for each mediation session and writing up the 'Memorandum of Understanding' at the end.
Contact our specialist Family Mediation Solicitors Sarah Thompson and Tara Deegan
Please call 0800 916 9055, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Family Law Solicitors operate across the country, and can offer immediate and accessible representation anywhere in England and Wales.
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