Family mediation is often misunderstood, with many separating couples thinking that it’s a counselling session with the aim of getting couples back together. In fact, family mediation is an effective way to solve issues that arise following a marriage breakdown, keeping your case out of the courts and legal costs, down.
Family mediation is a way to ‘referee’ your divorce case or get impartial advice that will help you and your spouse settle your separation amicably and cost-effectively, without involving the courts. Family mediators are trained to keep the dialogue constructive, while making sure your voice is heard.
Family mediation is an inclusive and flexible process that can be used to settle issues such as child custody of financial and property disputes. Mediation is not a form of marriage counselling, but a process with the intention of helping you and your spouse to settle any issues, affably.
Family mediators are neutral and do not represent either party. They do not offer advice, but can help you to formulate ideas that lead to an agreement, which helps both parties to work with the same information, often resulting in a faster resolution that’s satisfactory for both parties.
What Can You Expect from Family Mediation?
You can expect a series of mediation sessions, which generally last around 90 minutes. This is a traditional form of mediation and is often lawyer-assisted. Prior to the mediation process, your mediator will arrange an appointment to speak to you and your spouse separately. This will either be by phone or in person.
The first mediation session will set the agenda, and outline the issues that need to be settled. Over an average series of four or five sessions, the issues will be discussed and if settled amicably, your mediator will outline the issues agreed in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’
You can then seek legal advice from your divorce lawyer and have all the legal paperwork prepared if you wish to proceed. The paperwork is then sent to the court and whatever you and your spouse have agreed becomes a binding order.
Is Mediation Compulsory?
The UK government is a strong advocate of mediation for divorcing couples and has redirected legal aid funding towards mediation services, making it more difficult for financial and child cases to get to court, without a mediation assessment information meeting (MIAM) taking place first of all. Mediation is not compulsory, but is deemed highly beneficial for separating couples to keep costs down and prevent bitter courtroom battles.
However, mediation is not suitable for everyone. In domestic abuse cases, for instance, it’s unreasonable to expect an abused spouse to feel safe during mediation proceedings. Equally, there are people that will simply not agree to certain demands, making mediation unconstructive and potentially inflammatory.