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How to Reach Decisions, Communicate and Move Forward When a Relationship Ends

Family mediation can help separated or divorced couples come to agreements regarding things like money, children and housing.

Why to use mediation

Mediation is a voluntary form of dispute resolution which can save separated couples time and stress by avoiding going to court. It can also give the couple a greater say in what happens than they might have if they went to court. It is also easier for the children if their parents can co-operate and maintain an amicable relationship.

The mediation process

You can either appoint a mediator yourself or have a solicitor appoint one for you. The first appointment you have with a mediator is called the Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). The aim of this meeting is for the mediator to explain to you how mediation works and to assess whether mediation is suitable for your case and likely to be effective. The mediator will also discuss how many sessions may be needed and what the cost will be. If both parties agree to using mediation, then an appointment for a first session will be made. If not, then your mediator will sign a C100 form to show that it has at least been considered.

If you decide to go ahead with mediation, in subsequent sessions the mediator will meet with both parties to discuss their circumstances and help them come to an agreement. This can either be together or separately and will generally take a number of sessions.

Mediators have special training which will allow them to help both parties work out what has to be dealt with and what the options are. They will ensure any decisions that are made are fair to both parties and any children involved.

After the required number of sessions they will propose an agreement and write it up. After this you may wish to get a solicitor to draft a consent order based on your agreement. This can be made legally binding once sent to court and approved by a judge.

If children are involved in the dispute, then mediation will put the interests of the children first, and the proposed agreement should reflect this.

Using mediation before going to court

In order to apply to a court for an order to decide on matters regarding children, money or property, you will usually be expected to have at least contacted a mediator first to see if it is possible to settle the dispute this way.

You are exempt from having to contact a mediator, however, if someone’s safety is at risk, for example if there has been domestic violence or child abuse.

You can find a mediator local to you using the Family Mediation Council’s website.

Paying for mediation

You may be entitled to legal aid to help you pay for family mediation.  Even if you aren’t, mediation is usually cheaper than using a lawyer or going to court.