How does Mediation work?

What is family mediation?

Mediation is a process for couples who have decided to separate or divorce and who would prefer to negotiate their own future arrangements with the assistance of a family mediator rather than through solicitors or in court. The mediator, who is completely impartial, can help them consider options. The couple work with their mediator in total privacy discussing parenting issues and finances, together and in total privacy, and reach conclusive decisions about their future arrangements.

This is not relationship counselling, not legal advice and not judgemental.

Issues for mediation

Couples are free to discuss any issues they wish, often including the following

  • When a relationship cannot be saved, the timing of a separation or divorce
  • Where children should live or what arrangements should be made for their upbringing including contact with a parent or other family members
  • How the family home and contents should be divided
  • How savings and investments should be divided
  • How future accommodation will be funded
  • What maintenance or child support will be paid
  • Whether pension sharing is appropriate
  • How joint or individual debt will be dealt with

    A confidential and voluntary process

    Any initial enquiry can be treated in confidence; however, if you wish to come to mediation then your partner would need to agree to come too; mediation is a voluntary process. Mediators work as impartial third persons and for this reason, if you contact one of our mediators, they will be careful to ask you not to give them too many details of how you see the situation, which might make it difficult for you and your partner to feel that there is a balanced and neutral view when you meet together with the mediator. Any information which comes to the mediation will be treated as open between the two of you but confidential in all other senses, excepting, of course, matters of harm to a child or other family member.

    The introductory appointment

    At the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) you will meet with a mediator who will take some details from you and check to see if you are eligible for free mediation. If you are not, the likely cost will be explained to you. The process will be explained to you to see if mediation seems suitable in your particular case. The mediator will not be involved with going into detailed discussion of the facts of the case at this stage. If you are both willing to mediate, and the mediator feels that your case is suitable for mediation, an appointment for your first mediation session will be set up, when you will both meet with the mediator and the mediation process begins. For your assessment meeting, we ask that you provide evidence of your income, and that of any new partner with whom you are living. This is needed in order for us to assess whether or not you are eligible for free Publicly Funded mediation.

    How the first mediation meeting is conducted

    The mediator provides the venue and both parties and the mediator will be present. It is the responsibility of the mediator to ensure that meetings which usually last from 60 to 90 minutes are structured in a way that provides an environment where both parties feel able to discuss their issues confidentially and in a safe and structured way. Mediators are aware that imbalances of power between the parties are not uncommon and the aim of the process is to reduce these imbalances and the stress they cause, allowing each party to speak freely and participate fully in decision making. It may be the first time that couples have met or indeed spoken to each other for some time about matters of mutual concern.

    The "Agreement to mediate"

    Once you have decided to come to mediation, your mediator will provide you with an "Agreement to mediate", a formal document which explains fully the terms of the mediation process and will be signed at your first meeting. Your mediator will check carefully that you have understood everything - and of course - you are free to raise any questions you have.

    Creating a Parenting Plan

    Some clients find it useful to discuss parenting arrangements, and mediation is usually successful in restoring constructive communication between parents at a time of tension and fear of the future. Although children are not directly participating, their needs are regarded as paramount in the mediation process.

    How financial negotiations are conducted

    If you would like to make decisions about financial and property matters then a detailed questionnaire regarding your income and outgoings, assets, and debts will be given to you by the mediator. Completion of this will provide a comprehensive picture of your financial situation. The financial forms are exchanged between all three parties to the mediation, you, your former partner and the mediator. It is also part of the agreement to mediate that all documents concerned with finance or property, pensions or insurances, can also be made available to any solicitors you are consulting.

    The confidentiality of negotiations

    The process of mediation itself, however, is always confidential and neither the summary nor the mediation discussions can be referred to in court. The exceptions to this are that all financial information provided in the course of mediation can be referred to in court, and only in some unusual circumstances, for example in cases of child abuse, the mediator is released from any duty of confidentiality.

    Progressing towards and recording the outcome

    The mediator may prepare a summary of what progress has been achieved between you as discussions proceed. At the completion of the sessions ( between 2 and 4 on average) the mediator will prepare a detailed summary of the proposals that you wish to make. This is called a Memorandum of Understanding, which summarises the decisions reached in the mediation. These proposals, even though they may have been agreed between you, are not legally binding so you should first take them to your solicitor to approve.

    Achieving a legal settlement

    Our mediators encourage clients to retain their own solicitors for legal advice. If the mediation results in a written summary then clients are advised to take the summary to their solicitors for discussion. The Memorandum of Understanding is the outcome of successful negotiations in mediation; not part of litigation and therefore not legally binding. The solicitors can however use it to create a Separation Agreement or a Consent Order, which can be sent to the court for approval. The approved Consent Order is then fully binding upon the parties within divorce proceedings.

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