What is Family Mediation?

What is family mediation you may say? If you are separating or divorcing, family mediation helps by finding practical solutions that feel fair. Victoria Strode shares the basics principles

What is Family Mediation?

Mediation is a way to resolve any issues resulting from a relationship breaking down. You and your partner meet with a trained Mediator to work through any issues you haven’t been able to resolve together. The four principles embraced by the Mediation process are impartiality, confidentiality, that it is voluntary, and ‘without prejudice’.

Do I have to attend Mediation to make an application at Court?

New Court rules from April 2013 state that before any application in relation to finances or children is initiated there is a requirement to attend Mediation (even though it is still voluntary). There are some exemptions, such as when there are risks posed to you or a child, or incidents of domestic violence.

If you do not fall into any of the exemptions but do not feel comfortable attending Mediation, then you can attend an initial meeting to see if there is anything the Mediator can do to make the process work for you.

Can I ask the Mediator questions?

The Mediator is always impartial, and can only provide information to both parties. If you need someone’s advice then you can obtain independent legal advice. Sometimes people have their own solicitors during the process so they can take advice between sessions.

Do I have to meet face-to-face with my ex-husband/wife/partner?

Face-to-face meetings are almost always better as you can make proposals together. It is also likely to save time. If you have concerns about meeting then this can be discussed. The most suitable forum for this is at the first meeting you have on your own with the Mediator. If you decide that Mediation is the best route it is still possible to have Sequential or Shuttle Mediation.

Sequential Mediation means that both parties meet with the Mediator on separate days. Shuttle Mediation is where you both meet at the same time and place but are in two separate rooms and the Mediator moves between you.

Can I deal with financial issues and issues concerning the children?

Family Mediation can be a forum to discuss all types of issues and various aspects of a relationship breakdown. The Mediator will discuss what you would like to prioritise in each of the sessions.

How much will it cost me?

If a couple can’t come to an agreement on their own, Mediation is seen as the most cost-effective way of resolving issues arising from a relationship breakdown. If you reach a set of proposals, then the Mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding recording your discussions. Marked ‘without prejudice’, the content cannot be shown to third parties or used against you. You can show this to your legal advisors who would formalise the arrangements into a binding document if it concerns financial matters.

What if we can’t agree matters through Mediation?

If you are unable to resolve matters, the Mediator will sign a form confirming this. It is then up to each party to decide how they would like to move forward and what other options they have. This is something on which they will need to take independent legal advice.

What if my ex-husband/wife/partner doesn’t agree to attend Mediation?

If your partner does not want to attend then the Mediator will confirm this with you and, if necessary, sign a form so you can make an application to Court for an Order.

How many Mediation sessions will I need?

The answer to this is very variable. Most people find that between 3–5 sessions are required. However, each couple’s issues will be different and the number of sessions can be tailored to meet each couple’s needs.

My ex-husband/wife/spouse knows about the finances and I don’t – should I worry?

One of the Mediator’s roles is to provide a safe environment for discussion and to ensure that each party is on a level playing field. The Mediator needs to manage the process so that this continues. So the pace will always be adjusted to suit the person who needs more time to consider things. If the Mediator feels that the individual may benefit from other professional advice then they will make suggestions to assist both parties.


Working towards a solution

Four principles used by Mediation

  • Impartiality – the Mediator is a neutral party who does not take sides. The Mediator will help the parties to manage their discussions, work through them and find solutions;
  • Confidentiality – the process is confidential, with two exceptions. The first is the financial disclosure of assets and the second is if the Mediator has concerns about the safety of either party or of their children;
  • Voluntary – the Mediation process is voluntary. Therefore, if at any stage you do not feel comfortable, there is no obligation to continue;
  • ‘Without Prejudice’ – this means that the discussions taking place cannot be later used against you should the discussions fail.
Mogers Drewett

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