Separating families often find themselves in a situation where there are a lot of difficult decisions to be made about their futures. Tensions are heightened and many find communicating with an ex-partner a struggle.
Using the traditional route of applying to court often heightens that tension and can quickly run up significant legal fees. Mediation is an alternative process for resolving family issues and is often used in separation and divorce.
Mediation is usually quicker, can be cheaper and, most importantly, is flexible. This allows you to discuss any issues you want to and helps you to have better conversations and work together, which is especially important if you have children and need to co-parent for many years ahead.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a way of discussing and resolving disputes between couples and families. The parties will meet with a trained, impartial mediator who aids discussions between them, with the aim of reaching a way forward which is the most suitable for their family.
What happens at family mediation?
How the mediation takes place is very flexible, it can be online or face to face, you can be in the same room or separate and your lawyers can attend. There is also the option for a specially trained mediator to meet with children of the family to so they can express their views about what’s happening and anything that is troubling them.
What does family mediation involve?
Family mediation involves the parties involved in the dispute agreeing to discuss the situation, through mediation sessions, to try to find a way forward that is in the best interests of the family. The chosen mediator oversees the sessions and is a neutral party.
The mediator isn’t there to make any decisions or judgements. It is down to those involved in the dispute to find an agreement, but the mediator can help to facilitate this and ensure that the sessions stay on track.
What is the mediation process in family law?
Mediation starts with each of you having an individual meeting with the mediator either online or face to face so that the mediator can assess if mediation is suitable and so you can ask any questions. This meeting is private from the other person so you feel comfortable to speak openly and honestly about any concerns you may have about mediating and to explore the issues you want to cover.
If the mediator thinks your matter is suitable for mediation they will let you know how they think it should happen and set up another session. This session may be face to face in the same room or separate rooms or online in the same room or separate rooms, in some cases your lawyer can also attend. The mediator will set out the issues to be focussed on and help you discuss them in a constructive forward looking way.
Sessions usually take 1.5 – 2 hours can be longer including a full day where needed. Mediation can be draining so it is usually best for the sessions not to be too long. Most people need 3 – 6 sessions but there are no set rules.
Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will write it out along with a financial document (where appropriate) for you each to sign.
What does family mediation cover?
One of the great benefits of family mediation is that it can cover anything you want it to; some typical issues include:
Financial and property issues:
- Housing arrangements;
- Child maintenance;
- Maintenance for you or your partner;
- How to divide the assets you have accrued for married/civil partnership and non-married couples.
Child and parent issues:
- Who the children will live with and when, this can be short term or long term;
- Arrangements for school holidays, birthdays, Christmas etc.
- Parenting issues;
- Child maintenance;
- Schooling options;
- Medical issues;
- Change of name;
- Moving to another part of the UK or another country.
What is the main purpose of mediation?
The main purpose of mediation is for you and your partner to find a way forward that works for your family. Mediation can help you communicate better with each other and reduce conflict which can only benefit your children.
What are the benefits of mediation?
There are many potential benefits or advantages of family mediation, in order to try and resolve the dispute as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, especially when compared to court proceedings.
These can include:
- It is usually cheaper because you share the costs of the mediator;
- It is flexible to cover the issues you want to talk about at a time and way to suit you;
- It can be less stressful than court proceedings;
- It can promote a good basis for co-parenting, helping you to understand each other;
- It allows you to talk to each other in a safe way with a mediator to help when you get stuck;
- Our mediators are qualified lawyers who have been helping families for a long time, they know what they are talking about and how to help you;
- Any agreement reached is tailored to that family’s circumstances and is an resolution you agree to rather than it being imposed on you by a third party. You are more likely to stick to something that works for you both.
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What is the mediator’s role?
The mediator’s role is to assist and guide the parties in their discussions. The mediator is impartial and their aim is to ensure constructive conversations that are moving the issues forward. The mediator cannot give legal advice but will give information to help you both consider properly what is being discussed. Once an agreement has been reached the mediator will set this out in a document for you to show to your lawyer.
How much does mediation cost?
The cost of mediation depends on who your chosen mediator is. Mediation is either charged on a time or fixed fee basis and you can have as many sessions as you feel is necessary. There will also be costs for the preparation of an agenda and a summary of each session as well as preparing a document setting out any agreement reached and the financial disclosure (if appropriate).
The costs of the mediator are shared by you both, usually in equal shares but however you agree. There is a £500 voucher we can apply for to use towards your mediation where there are issues regarding children.
What should I do before attending mediation?
Write down all the issues you would like to discuss in mediation. Find the right mediator for you. At Moore Barlow, we are always happy to have a chat, free of charge, so you can decide if we are right for you. Once you have decided who you want to use, you can tell your partner or you can ask us to contact them.
Because the mediator cannot give you legal advice, it is often useful to take some legal advice from a lawyer in the background. Your mediator will let you know when it would be useful for you to speak to a lawyer.
How to prepare for mediation for family law
Preparing for a mediation session to resolve a family law issue is important, to assist with the maximum progress possible during the meeting. Bringing pre-written notes about what you want to say and all relevant paperwork relating to the dispute with you is recommended.
Your solicitor can help you to prepare for mediation by checking your notes and questions and seeing if there is anything else that may be added to this to help you get the best possible outcome from the session.
What questions do mediators ask?
In the individual session, which is private, the mediator will ask about the relationship background and what is happening that you need help with. They will ask about the dynamic of you and your partner and how you have resolved issues in the past.
The mediator will ask if there has been any domestic abuse in the relationship. In joint sessions the mediator may ask you challenging questions to encourage you to see your partners’ point of view or to challenge views you may have.
What happens at a family mediation meeting?
Mediation meetings can be arranged in a way that best suits those involved, so there is some flexibility in what happens. However, what will normally happen is that the mediator will already have discussed the situation with both parties individually, so will now direct discussions between the two of you to try to find an agreement.
If you are in a room together, this will happen differently to if you are in separate rooms, but your mediator will be able to answer any questions you might have about the process for your particular situation.
If an agreement can be reached in this session, there will usually be a written document outlining what has been agreed for both parties to sign. If no agreement is reached, it will be determined whether further mediation sessions are required or whether another kind of dispute resolution might be more appropriate.
During mediation, do I have to sit in a room with my former partner?
In short, no. Mediation can take in a variety of forums. Traditionally, both parties are in one room with the mediator. However, it is now possible to offer mediation virtually over a platform such as Zoom or MS Teams.
If you are not comfortable with being in the same room as your partner, shuttle mediation is another option. This is where you and your partner will be in separate rooms either in the same building or virtually. The mediator will speak to one of you and then go to talk to the other. They will keep going back and forth aiding the conversations so you are not speaking directly with your partner.
Do I still need a solicitor when attending mediation?
You do not have to have a solicitor but there are times when it is useful for you to take advice, your mediator will tell you when that is. If you reach an agreement in a financial matter a lawyer will convert the written agreement to a court order for the court to approve.
What happens if you can’t reach an agreement through mediation?
If you are unable to reach agreement through mediation, you have several other options available which include:
- Negotiations through lawyers
- Collaborative Law where you have meetings with your lawyers present
- Arbitration where you appoint an Arbitrator to make a decision
- Instructing a family law specialist to give their view as to the outcome, this is often called an Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) or a Private Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR)
- Making a Court application
A mediator will explain these options to you and a lawyer will be able to advise you as to what options are most suitable, if mediation is not successful.
How can Moore Barlow help?
At Moore Barlow we have expert family solicitor mediators who are able to help you and your family. We work closely with therapeutic mediators who can participate in the mediation where appropriate.
If you have already selected a mediator, you can use Moore Barlow as your lawyers to give you advice throughout the process and after, including with the preparation of a financial order. If mediation is not successful, Moore Barlow have lawyers who are trained in Collaborative Law as well as being able to guide you through alternative options.
If you would like to speak with one of our mediators or lawyers about your options, please feel free to get in touch.