What is hybrid family mediation and is it for me?

Family mediation is a way of sorting out any issues you might have about dividing up your finances upon a separation or divorce, and/or to discuss the arrangements for your children. In “classic” family mediation there would be you, your ex-partner / spouse and the mediator. Other professionals or a co-mediator may be involved where this would be helpful, for example a financial consultant to assist with pension discussions and possibly a family consultant to help with your communications to ensure the sessions are as productive as possible.

In hybrid family mediation your lawyer can also be present, for some or all of the sessions. If only one of you has instructed a lawyer hybrid mediation may still proceed if you both and the mediator agree. The sessions can be longer than in “classic” family mediation, so potentially a day or half a day, or whatever period of time is needed. For example, you might have a couple of shorter sessions just with you, your ex-partner / spouse and the mediator, and then a couple of longer sessions covering one to two days, either in a row or with a gap of time in between, with your solicitors present. Other experts can attend too where that would be helpful. For example, your family accountant could attend if there is a family business to discuss.

In hybrid family mediation you can share with the mediator your proposals for settlement which will not be divulged to your ex-partner unless and until you give the green light for this to happen. It can be helpful to discuss proposals with the mediator without them being shared with the other party. In all other respects the mediator must be open and transparent between you. For example, they cannot hold confidences or secrets about the financial assets and resources – that information must be shared.

Working in this way can help the mediator bring you both closer together in your negotiating positions to help you reach a consensus. You may or may not decide to share any confidential information with the mediator but having the opportunity to do so can be very helpful in progressing the discussions towards settlement.

The mediator will offer a three-way conference call or Zoom meeting with both lawyers. This may be to case-manage i.e. set a timetable by which information will be gathered and shared to assist the case. Having a neutral third party in such circumstances can ensure the highest level of cooperation between the lawyers. The mediator can also assist if there are differences of opinion on legal principles and will often suggest strategies to resolve impasse.

During the negotiations having lawyers present at a meeting or available by telephone to give legal advice and support can be a hugely helpful resource in getting a case to settlement. At such meetings everyone is well prepared and ready to negotiate in earnest. Having the support of a legal adviser again gives the discussions the best prospect of success.

Hybrid mediation can be conducted virtually and / or face-to-face. If one party lives abroad, for example, the mediator can conduct blended hybrid sessions i.e. one party and their lawyer join virtually with the other party and their lawyer being in the building.

Facilities are provided for you to have a private room for you to meet with your lawyer. The mediator may move between rooms, but it can be enormously helpful to bring everyone together in one room for some of the discussions. This may be the first time you will meet your ex-partner’s lawyer.

Hybrid mediation works and gives a case the best possible chance of a successful resolution in a safe, supported and comfortable setting utilising the skills of the mediator and legal advisers. It is increasingly becoming the process option for couples who wish to stay away from the courts.

Please get in touch with our family law experts at Moore Barlow and we can advise you.