How it works
The best decisions are often those reached by the couple themselves and a mediator will act as an impartial third party to assist both individuals in finding workable solutions.
It is important that you are both in agreement to attend mediation. You will both have a separate initial assessment meeting during which the mediator will explain the process and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions. Once you both, with the mediator, have decided that mediation is the most appropriate way forward, a first mediation session will be arranged for you to attend together. The agenda will be set by you both. You both decide what you want to discuss and together with the mediator will explore whether an understanding can be reached.
If detailed finances are being considered, the mediator will ask you both to complete a financial information form so that you will each be sufficiently informed to find solutions together. If you have children, the mediator will help you to find the best arrangements for them.
A further meeting can be arranged with the mediator if required and once a set of proposals have been settled, the mediator will convert these into an open financial statement and memorandum of understanding, or, in cases involving children, a parenting plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
1 Is mediation confidential?
Mediation is confidential unless the mediator feels that either of you or your children are in danger.
The mediation documentation itself, the open financial statement and the memorandum of understanding are shown (with your consent) to your solicitor. However while the financial statement can be referred to in Court proceedings later, the discussions outlined in the memorandum of understanding are ‘privileged,’ which means they cannot be used in Court. Again the exception is if the mediator considers there is a safeguarding issue in relation to a child.
2 Can the mediator see my children?
Yes. If the mediator is trained in consulting with children, they can if you would both like them to.
3 What can we discuss?
A typical mediation usually covers the financial consequences of a separation and arrangements for children. It can however be used to discuss any other issues that arise from the breakdown of your relationship which are important to you and need to be resolved. Some separating couples use mediation to talk about all issues but it is also possible to deal with just one aspect.
4 What information can the mediator give?
The mediator cannot advise you but can provide information about the Court process and what will be expected of you both. The mediator cannot check your financial information and may direct you to seek specific legal advice if appropriate.
5 Do I need a solicitor?
Ideally you should each have a lawyer to advise you on the outcome and turn your proposals into a Consent Order for financial matters or a Parenting Order for children.
6 How much does it cost?
Mediation can be much cheaper than having negotiations between your respective solicitors. We charge on the basis of an hourly rate but which covers only the time in the session, reviewing the disclosure and drawing up the outcome documents.
Please contact us for information regarding our rates.
If you consider mediation may help your situation please do give us a call.
The Collaborative Process
An alternative approach to mediation is collaborative law which revolves around four-way meetings.
1 What makes the collaborative process different?
- The essence of the collaborative process is building a team of clients, their lawyers and occasionally other professionals, such as financial advisers or family consultants, to work together to try and produce results based on common interests. These interests may, for example, revolve around trying to do what is best for the children for keeping a family business intact.
- Each party has their own solicitor but they must be trained to undertake this type of work. Although they represent their client’s interests, they also work as part of a team with the other solicitor to produce mutually agreeable solutions.
- Everybody agrees to work within the process without having recourse to the courts, unless and until an agreement is reached. Everybody signs a participation agreement to this effect. In the unfortunate event that the process breaks down and one or both parties wishes to involve the courts, then at that point each party needs to instruct new solicitors.
- Four-way meetings involving the clients and their solicitors form the ’nitty gritty‘ of the process. The intention is to limit the correspondence between solicitors and for the negotiations to take part within the meetings. Nothing happens in the dark.
- It allows for the introduction of other professionals at appropriate times, to help the clients make informed and considered decisions. It’s sometimes helpful for the couple to work together with a financial adviser to properly understand the financial landscape, not least when there are complicated investments or pensions.
- A streamlined process to obtain a court order confirming what the parties have agreed is now in place if an agreement is reached.
2 Is the process any cheaper than the more traditional way of dealing with things?
Not always but the process enables the individuals to feel much more in control of what is happening and because the dates of the four-way meetings are not linked to the court diary, it is usually possible to have a significantly shorter timeline.
3 Are there any other benefits?
When working together in a team, clients and their solicitors can often come up with solutions that are more suitable to their particular circumstances than the limited range of powers available to the court within contested financial proceedings. Moreover, it is much easier to deal with confidential or commercially sensitive information within the collaborative process than the court one.
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