What is family mediation?
Family mediation can be used for resolving several types of disputes after a separation:
- Matters regarding the children, including whom they will live with, contact arrangements and gaining parental responsibility
- What will happen to a house which was shared
- How possessions will be divided
- Financial issues
- How communication will take place in the future
Mediation is a process which means that a dispute does not have to go through the courts and thus puts the people involved in control of the outcome. Mediators will not take sides or offer individual advice.
One of the main issues that arises when a couple divorces is that they can no longer communicate. With family mediation a trained independent mediator is employed to help the couple discuss their wishes and come up with an agreement which suits both of them.
How family mediation works
After you appoint a mediator (this can either be done yourself or through a solicitor), they will get in contact with both parties and discuss what the process will involve. The mediator will then arrange a first meeting in which both parties will be seen separately and their situation discussed.
If the mediation is solely about matters concerning the children, the first session will be focused around deciding what is best for them and working towards an agreement which both parties are satisfied with.
If the mediation is regarding financial matters then each party will have to provide a disclosure about all of their financial assets, income and expenditure. This will need to be supported with evidence. Until both parties have provided their financial information the process will not be able to continue.
Once all the financial information has been gathered, the negotiations can begin. Both parties will be encouraged to discuss what their aims are and what compromises they are willing to make in order to come to an agreement. The overall aim is to come up with a conclusion that both parties are happy with and which puts the needs of any children involved first.
If a decision is reached about all or some of the issues then a Memorandum of Understanding can be drawn up, which each party will need to show to their solicitors to ascertain whether the proposals put forward are fair. If there are financial issues involved, the mediator will also draw up a Statement of Finances which outlines all the financial decisions which have been made. This will also need to be shown to a solicitor.
If the solicitor believes that either document is not fair, the mediation proceedings will begin again. If the documents are agreed upon then actions can be taken to make them legally binding.
How long will it take?
This will vary from case to case depending on the complexities of the issues involved. On average mediation regarding children takes 1-3 sessions whereas mediation regarding financial issues will take 4-6.
Advantages of family mediation
The advantages of mediation are that the couple remains in control of the whole process including the outcome. This can make the process a lot less stressful. It is also easier to avoid things turning nasty, which can lead to a complete breakdown in the relationship of the couples - this is important especially when there are children involved. It is also a lot cheaper than going to court and a mediation agreement can be changed if circumstances change.
Disadvantages of family mediation
Mediation will not be suitable in cases where there has been violence or drug use in the relationship. There is also a chance that an agreement will not be made, which means that the costs of mediation are added on to an expensive court process. It also requires both parties to be involved, which can be difficult if the relationship broke down acrimoniously.
What does it cost?
The cost of mediation will vary depending on the number of issues which need to be addressed and how quickly couples are able to come up with agreements. Costs will be made up of the initial mediation appointment, each mediation session and a charge for writing up any agreements that are made. If a settlement is being made about the children, this can cost from £150 to £500 per person on average. If there are other issues involved then costs can be from £500 to £1200 per person on average. Some mediators work on a sliding scale depending on their client’s income.
It is also important to acknowledge that you will also have to consult a solicitor, which will cost from £120 to £300 per hour.
It can be possible to get legal aid if you are on a low income or have limited savings, to help with the costs of mediation. Ask a solicitor to find out more.
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