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What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a process whereby divorcing or separating couples can meet on ‘neutral ground’ to try to resolve disputes between themselves. They can also make and reach arrangements for the future by discussing matters together with a trained family mediator.
It is possible to attend mediation to discuss arrangements for the children and/or to resolve financial matters.
The family mediator will be completely independent and will have considerable experience and understanding of family law matters. They will be able to assist you and your ex-partner to reach an amicable agreement in relation to the matters in issue.
Mediation is not intended to replace legal advice. The mediator will encourage both you and your ex-partner to seek legal advice throughout the process, and in particular at the end of the mediation process.
Any agreement reached during mediation in respect of financial matters may be incorporated into a formal separation agreement or court order as appropriate. A solicitor can advise you in relation to this as and when it becomes appropriate.
Helping you to move from conflict to resolution
When relationships break down there needs to be a resolution. While negotiation through Solicitors, and even court proceedings are common in these circumstances, many divorcing couples prefer to take a less adversarial approach.
Whilst it is not the best solution for everyone, family mediation offers an alternative to court, and can often be a more cost-effective way of reaching agreements about financial matters or arrangements for children after a split. Mediation can also be quicker and less expensive than using the court system to resolve disputes.
Family Mediation is one area where legal aid funding is still available, and divorcing couples are now required to consider mediation before sorting out their differences through the courts.
Any divorcing couple seeking a court order to resolve a dispute over children, property or financial matters has to attend a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ (MIAM). At Switalskis, we offer MIAMs, as well as a full Family Mediation service.
Family Mediation and Public Funding (legal aid)
Following a referral to a mediation service, they will offer separate appointments to you and your ex-partner.
At your initial meeting, the mediator will discuss with you whether it is likely that your dispute can be resolved through mediation. If it is considered that the case is suitable for mediation, then a series of joint meetings for you and your partner will be arranged to attempt to resolve matters.
Not all cases are suitable for mediation. For example, if there has been domestic abuse within the relationship, this may preclude mediation taking place.
There may be additional circumstances in which you may be exempt from the requirement to attend mediation and your solicitor will discuss these with you if they are relevant.
Paying for Family Mediation
Legal aid is available for family mediation and at your initial meeting the mediator will assess whether you are entitled to public funding to cover the costs of the mediation, known as “Family Mediation”.
Further funding in the form of ‘Help with Mediation’ may also be available to cover the cost of obtaining legal advice in the context of ongoing mediation appointments. This would cover help such as advising as to the fairness of any agreement reached during mediation and formalising the agreement through the courts.
If, upon assessment of your financial circumstances, you do not qualify for the public funding outlined above, the mediator will discuss with you their charges.
If you are in receipt of public funding in a legal matter and recover or preserve property or money, you may be required to pay or contribute to your legal costs. This is known as the Statutory Charge.
An additional benefit of mediation is that the Statutory Charge does not apply to any work associated with family mediation.
Those paying on a private basis benefit from potentially reducing their legal costs should an agreement be reached, as opposed to issuing court proceedings.
What does a Mediator do?
The job of a family mediator is to act as an impartial third party. A mediator will not take sides, but will encourage you to engage in constructive discussions which will help you move from conflict to resolution. Family mediators are skilled in bringing out the issues and mediating between the parties with a focus on an end result that will satisfy both sides.
The mediator will initially meet with each of you separately, first to explain all about mediation and the process and then to assess whether mediation is suitable for you. If it is suitable, and both of you are willing, the mediator will arrange a joint meeting and the mediation sessions will begin.
On average, divorcing or separating couples will take between two and three mediation sessions to resolve issues and reach agreements.
What sort of issues can we deal with in mediation?
Family mediation can help when a divorcing or separating couple are willing to work together to reach agreements on arrangements for children, and sorting out financial matters. Mediation can also work well when family arrangements that have worked well in the past begin to fail due to a change in relationships or circumstances.
You may be a divorcing or separating couple, trying to cope with the inevitable disputes which happen in relationship breakdown, or you may have been separated for some time, but facing life changes which make existing arrangements unworkable.
Whatever your situation, our family mediators have the specialist skill and expertise to help you and your ex-partner work together effectively, to agree solutions you are each happy with.
Whether the issue involves arrangements about property or finances, or disputes regarding children, our experienced family mediators will help you to explore ways you can resolve your difficulties.
Mediation can offer an alternative to resolving disputes through the court system and many people using mediation in this way find that by working with a mediator together with their ex-partner to find solutions to issues around finances or children, their relationship is less adversarial and their communication more effective.
To arrange an appointment with a Family Mediator, call 0800 138 0458, or complete our contact form and we will call you back.