What family mediation can provide?

A constructive dialogue about changes for the future

Mediation is not relationship counselling or therapy. Nor do mediators give legal advice. It works on the basis that even when couples are separated they are still capable of negotiating their own settlements and making decisions about their future finances and arrangements for their children in total privacy. They can meet together in the presence of a neutral mediator to discuss parenting issues and finances. Mediation is a constructive way of dealing with the changes that occur following separation. It may not end the anger, or cure the hurt, but it will go a long way to minimise both of these, as couples look together for solutions in new and changing circumstances. The mediator explores with the couple the options available in their case and provides guidance as they set out their views to each other. By making this choice they can ensure that future arrangements are tailor-made to suit the needs of their own family.

A skilled and impartial mediator

Mediation is for couples who have yet to resolve their disputes. Our mediators are skilled at dealing with people in conflict and trained in mediation techniques and we have a high success rate at helping couples resolve their issues. Our mediators come from a mixed professional background of lawyers and therapists and are accredited to national standards.

The mediator will not be making decisions for the couple and does not decide whose position is right or wrong. It is the mediator's role to help the couple consider options that are acceptable to them both.

A framework for confidential negotiations

The process of mediation is always confidential and neither the final outcome nor the mediation discussions can be referred to in court. The exceptions to this are that financial information provided in the course of mediation can be referred to in court. Mediators gather information through an extensive financial questionnaire, which follows the format of the financial questionnaire used in court proceedings. Where necessary, up-to-date valuations are obtained of any property, pension, insurance policies and other assets. Where full financial disclosure is withheld by either party, the mediator will refer the couple back to their solicitors for advice.

A written document setting out the understandings reached

The Memorandum of Understanding is the document recording the outcome of successful negotiations in mediation. It is not legally binding. The solicitors can however use it to create a Consent Order, which can be sent to the court for approval. The approved Consent Order is then fully binding upon the parties.

A saving in legal costs

The solicitor's role will usually be confined to giving advice, since all the negotiations are carried out in the mediation. To enable you to make informed decisions in mediation you need to have an idea of the best and worst possible case scenarios if your dispute were to go to court. With this background advice you can be confident that the proposals you make together in the hope of reaching a settlement are fair and reasonable. At the end of the mediation, you will need a solicitor to make sure that you fully understand the implications of the settlement reached. Even if there is no final agreement you will return to your solicitor with financial disclosure which has been exchanged between you on an open basis, thus saving your solicitor a good deal of work. Your outstanding issues will at least have been clarified and possibly narrowed down, again saving your solicitor some work.

A reduction in hostility

Litigation can be expensive and confrontational. Mediation enables couples to incorporate into their settlement factors that are outside the remit of the court. In family disputes it can often be in the interest of the parties to maintain a cordial relationship, which mediation encourages and litigation tends to discourage. The mediated settlement is likely to be acceptable to both parties, whereas a judicially imposed resolution could leave neither party particularly content. Even when mediation is not wholly successful couples may of course reach agreement on some issues, but not others. In financial mediation, financial disclosure will have been provided, at least in part. In the case of child centred mediation a greater level of awareness of each others' position will have been reached. This may promote a better understanding between parents.

A saving of time

The mediation process tends to be completed in a shorter time than litigation. Occasionally, a couple will have complex issues and in such instances the mediation would take longer. The exact timescale is difficult to predict since so much depends on each individual situation. The sessions each last between one and one and a half hours. We usually anticipate between 2 and 4 sessions but sometimes it can be less and sometimes more. The probable length of mediation is always fully discussed at the outset. Research has shown that most couples reach agreement in mediation in a third of the time it would take if they negotiated the same agreement through solicitors.

A safe environment

Mediation can only be conducted in good faith and on an open basis. Mediation is a voluntary process, and clients should feel secure and not under any form of pressure before, during, or after mediation sessions. It is the responsibility of the Mediator to ensure that meetings are conducted in a way that provides an environment where both parties feel able to discuss issues and concerns confidentially and in a safe and structured way. Clients can always raise concerns about abuse in confidence with the mediator at the introductory meeting. If the mediator takes the view at any stage that a client is in immediate need of protection, then the mediation will be terminated and the client advised to return to his or her solicitor. In some cases, however, past abuse may be viewed as unlikely to recur once circumstances are improved. In such cases, continuing in mediation can further reduce tension and improve communication.

A package of benefits

  • Communication is increased
  • Stress is reduced
  • Decisions are made together rather than imposed from outside
  • The process is constructive rather than destructive
  • Solutions are reached more quickly
  • Costs are reduced
  • we were able to make contact and I am now seeing [my daughter] which is what I wanted..
    You made a difficult, painful time so much easier to bear.....we have continued to communicate better without lawyers since, many thanks