What is family mediation and is it suitable for me?
Family mediation is a confidential and ‘without prejudice’ process that can help families manage conflicts and resolve disputes in a peaceful and constructive way. Mediation can be used to help resolve a wide range of family issues including divorce, cohabitee disputes, children and financial matters and property division. It is an important and successful dispute resolution process in suitable cases and the aim is to help families avoid the stress, expense, uncertainty, and lengthy delays involved in going to court. Often, it is a requirement that mediation be considered before starting court proceedings.
It involves you and your spouse / civil partner working with a trained mediator who acts as a neutral third party and who can facilitate negotiations, help you communicate effectively, identify shared goals, and find creative solutions to the issues. The mediator does not take sides, listens to each party and tries to identify the issues / the points that cannot be agreed. The mediator does not make decisions for the family but, instead helps them to find common ground if possible and work towards finding mutually beneficial solutions. The aim of mediation is to try and help resolve family issues by agreement rather than through contested court proceedings.
One of the key benefits of family mediation is that it allows families to maintain control over the outcome of their disputes. This is unlike court proceedings, where a judge makes decisions for the family. It has always been considered a better option for parties to compromise, negotiate and come to an agreement if possible, rather than have a decision imposed on them by a Judge as it is felt that they are more likely to adhere to the terms of their agreement. Also, in the long term this can help families maintain positive relationships and avoid the acrimony that comes with court proceedings.
Family mediation can also be less expensive and time consuming than going to court. Mediation sessions are typically shorter than court hearings and can often help families resolve their issues in a few sessions. There will usually be between three to five meetings of one to two hours each and the cost can be significantly less than lengthy court proceedings and the related legal fees.
A mediator is neutral, does not act for either you or your spouse / civil partner, so they cannot give advice and cannot take sides. Therefore, it is usually recommended that separate legal advice is obtained alongside this process. Supportive legal advice running in parallel with family mediation can provide valuable input by managing expectations, ensuring they are realistic and enhance the process of mediation.
If an agreement can be reached, then the mediator will draft the agreement into a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ and advise both parties to consult their respective specialist family solicitors who can then advise on it and draft a formal agreement. This will then be submitted to the Court for approval to make sure that it becomes legally binding.
Whilst family mediation can be a very effective option in most cases it may not be suitable in others particularly if there has been domestic violence, abuse, or if one person feels intimidated or threatened by the other. A mediator can advise you at your first meeting whether or not mediation is suitable based on your particular circumstances.
Learn more about our Family Mediation Services and how our team can help you.