If you need help to reach decisions about important family matters, contact Slater and Gordon Lawyers to arrange an initial family mediation consultation. Call us on freephone 0808 175 8000 or complete our online contact form and we’ll call you back.
What is Family Mediation?
Family mediation is an alternative to court proceedings and is used to help separating couples to resolve issues such as how to divide their assets and finances, as well as how to come to agreements about the living arrangements of their children. The process is facilitated by a neutral third party who aids negotiations and is known as a ‘mediator’.
If you’re in the process of separating from your partner, a professionally trained, independent mediator can help with a wide range of issues, including:
- Custody, residency or contact arrangements for children
- Child maintenance payments
- What to do with your property, savings, debts and pensions
They can also help with issues such as how to make arrangements for children to see their step families, grandparents or in-laws.
It’s important to be aware that if you apply to a court to hear a case, the judge will expect you to have considered mediation beforehand. If you haven’t, they may refuse to hear your case until you’ve taken this step.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits associated with family mediation, including the following:
- It’s less stressful than court proceedings, which can be confrontational and cause tensions between you and your ex to escalate.
- It can be less damaging and upsetting for any children who are involved.
- The process tends to be considerably quicker and cheaper than court proceedings.
- It provides you and your ex with more control over how your issues are resolved. Your mediator will help you to find a solution that works for both of you. In
- contrast, if you go to court, a judge will make decisions for you and you’ll have to stick to them even if you’re not happy with the outcome.
- Agreements made through the process of mediation can be altered if your circumstances change.
When should I try Family Mediation?
You should consider contacting a mediator as soon as you need help to resolve an important family decision. These experts can help to prevent any disagreements from getting worse, and so it’s a good idea to use their services at an early stage in the process.
Even if you don’t think mediation will work in your case and you want to go to court to resolve a dispute with your ex, it’s important to give this process a go. As mentioned previously, if you’re not able to show that you’ve considered mediation, a judge may delay or stop court proceedings until you’ve done this. This is because it’s now compulsory if a party is issuing court proceedings to refer the matter to family mediation, whether the application 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’ll have to attend at least one family mediation session.
Even if you and your ex-partner have been separated for a long time or you’ve already taken your case to court, mediation is still an option that could help you to resolve your disagreements.
How does Family Mediation work?
Either you or your partner can contact a mediator, or you can do this together. You can contact them directly yourself or you can instruct your solicitor to refer you. The next step is to arrange an initial meeting with them. During this meeting, which is sometimes referred to as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), you’ll discuss the nature of the issues you want to resolve and find out if this approach is suitable for you. If you decide against taking the process any further, the mediator will be able to provide a certificate for a court to show that you attended this MIAM.
If you do proceed, additional meetings will be arranged during which you may focus on anything from communication issues to arrangements for your children and finances.
If you think you might need legal advice during the mediation process, this can be arranged at any time. For example, you might want to meet with your solicitor between meetings for additional guidance.
Once you and your ex have agreed on proposals that are acceptable to both of you, the mediator will draw up a summary of the details, and this will be sent to both you and your ex-partner to discuss with your solicitors. If you’re still both satisfied, your solicitors will turn this summary into a document that is legally binding.
What if Family Mediation doesn’t work?
The majority of people who start the mediation process are able to reach an agreement, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If you find you can’t come to an arrangement that both you and your ex are happy with, bear in mind that your next step needn’t be court. You may want to try other approaches first, such as collaborative law or family arbitration. You can discover more about these options by contacting our expert team on freephone 0808 175 8000 or by filling in our online contact form
How long does Family Mediation take?
The family mediation process starts with an initial assessment when you explain your situation and the mediator tells you how they can help you. Then over a period of weeks or months, depending on how many joint sessions you’ll need, they’ll work through a structured framework until a mutually agreeable outcome is reached. The joint sessions can last one to two hours each.
Who is Family Mediation for?
Family mediation is recommended for any separating couple going through a divorce or separation except in cases of domestic violence when it wouldn’t be appropriate and one of the parties would be vulnerable. It’s ideal for resolving disagreements over children, or dividing property or pensions. Compared with the court process, mediation is a cheaper and often quicker way of resolving these disputes.
Why do I need a solicitor?
Mediators are neutral and don’t take sides during the process. This means they cannot give partial advice to either you or your ex-partner. In most cases, mediators advise separating couples to seek legal advice outside of the process of mediation, and they can guide you as to when you should look for help from a solicitor.
Getting advice from a legal expert in this way helps you to protect your interests and it can take much of the stress and anxiety out of the process. By turning to a specialist family law solicitor, you can ensure you follow the correct steps and you understand exactly what’s happening at each stage of your separation.
How much does Family Mediation cost?
Family mediation can be considerably less expensive than taking your case to court. However, there are costs involved and you’ll need to budget for these. At Slater and Gordon, we know that the last thing you want to have to worry about when you’re going through the difficult process of separating from your ex-partner is money. That’s why we always help our clients to find the most cost-effective legal solutions. If you come to us for help with family mediation, we won’t charge for the initial consultation. We then operate a fixed fee structure, meaning you won’t have any unwanted surprises when it comes to payments.
We offer a free initial meeting with a mediator and competitive rates for any additional sessions which are less than most family lawyers and certainly those with our mediators’ experience.
Why choose Slater and Gordon Lawyers?
When you need advice on family mediation, or any other area of family law, you can rely on the team at Slater and Gordon. Our family solicitors are highly trained, knowledgeable and experienced in this field and are perfectly placed to guide you through this difficult time. They’ll help you to secure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
We are rated 9 out of 10 on TRUSTPILOT and our family lawyers are also highly rated in the Legal 500. The 2016/17 edition of the Legal 500 states: “Slater and Gordon’s team ‘really knows its stuff’ and regularly advises on large and complex family law cases.”
Many of our solicitors are members of Resolution, which is an organisation dedicated to a constructive approach to family law that helps to save costs and stress for all parties involved in family law cases.
To discover more about our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can visit our offices across the country in locations including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, , Sheffield, Cardiff and Preston. Alternatively, contact us on freephone 0808 175 8000 or request a call back online.