For many families, mediation offers a productive, non-confrontational way of dealing with disputes and is an alternative to the court process. A mediator is a specially-trained professional, usually a family law solicitor, who is independent of both parties and acts as a facilitator in three-way meetings, rather than a decision-maker.
Mediation is a voluntary process through which separating couples aim to work together to resolve issues in dispute. These could include:
- Future care arrangements for children
- Dealing with a financial settlement associated with a divorce or civil partnership
- Making financial provision for children of unmarried parents
Through a series of meetings, the mediator will work with you both to identify which issues are in dispute and seek common ground. They may also set ‘homework’ for you where further information is needed; for example, assembling details of your financial situation if you are working towards a settlement.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution in which a specially trained-mediator, often a family lawyer themselves, facilitates discussions between separating parties in order to help them resolve any issues they may have. If financial matters are under discussion, the mediator will agree on a timetable and format for the exchange of financial disclosure and help set an agenda for trying to agree on a financial settlement.
Mediation is not relationship counselling and the aim of the process is to find a way of dealing with the various issues that arise when a couple separates, not to seek reconciliation.
The Role of a Solicitor
In the vast majority of cases, the parties attend mediation without their lawyers being present. However, this does not mean that you will be without full support and guidance during the process.
We can provide you with advice before and after each mediation session to clarify your legal position, assist with practical queries and help you identify what outcome you are aiming for. We can also assist you in compiling financial data and any other information required by the mediator.
If you have reached a financial agreement in mediation, we will work with you to ensure that it is turned into a valid financial consent order, which can then be presented to the court for approval within your divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings. Until this has happened, no financial agreement you reach within mediation is final, binding or enforceable.
If the process of mediation proves unsuccessful, we can help you assess your options to resolve matters using another form of dispute resolution, whether or not this involves the court.
My husband and I have agreed on arrangements for the children but are stuck on a few points about the money. Could mediation help us?
Mediators often help couples who have agreed on many aspects of their separation but have reached an impasse on others. The mediator will work with the couple to find out what remains in dispute and look for common ground to try and find a solution you both agree on.
Do you have to go to mediation before you go to court?
In most disputes regarding financial settlements on divorce or issues relating to children, you cannot make an application to the court until you have attended a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).
Mediation is a voluntary process and no one can be forced to take part in discussions. However, the rules of court mean that most applications relating to money or children cannot be made unless the person making the application (the applicant) has attended a MIAM to find out about mediation, even if they did not go ahead with it.
At the MIAM, the applicant will meet with a mediator on their own and will be given information about the process of mediation. If the applicant does not wish to proceed with mediation, the mediator will certify their attendance at the MIAM, allowing the application to court to go ahead.
In the event the applicant wishes to proceed with mediation, the other party will be invited to attend a MIAM. If the mediator agrees that the case is suitable for mediation, they will schedule one or more three-way mediation sessions.
In certain situations, a person considering making an application to court will not be required to attend a MIAM. This includes cases where:
- There is evidence of domestic abuse
- There is no mediator available within a certain distance of the parties
- There is an urgent need for court intervention (e.g. if there is a threat to a child’s safety)
You do not have to attend a MIAM before beginning divorce or dissolution proceedings, or if you are simply asking the court to approve a financial consent order.