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Family mediation services

Family mediation session

If you’ve split up with your partner, you might need some help sorting out the arrangements in an amicable way.  Mediation can be used at any stage of a break up, whether or not you have separated or instigated divorce proceedings. It can also be used further down the line if the arrangements that have been agreed need to change.

Family mediation is where an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex to work out an agreement about issues you have not yet decided on.

This might include, for example, agreeing on:

  • Where the children will live
  • How often each of you will see them
  • Which other family members will see your children
  • How much maintenance will be paid
  • What will happen to your house
  • What will happen to your savings and pensions
  • How joint debts will be paid
  • What steps you will take next

Family mediation may take place shortly after a break up – or it may take place years down the line when one or both parties have remarried. Arrangements may need to be changed and adapted, particularly as children grow up.

What is mediation like?

Some people may feel reluctant to give mediation a try because they worry that they will have to compromise or ‘back down’ in a way that they are unhappy with. Often, they can only see one way to resolve an issue and they will have made up their minds that this is the only solution.

Mediation takes place in a safe and confidential environment, allowing you to discuss future arrangements for both you and your family. Your mediator will be skilled in helping you to negotiate both the emotional and legal challenges that come with a family breakdown. Their aim is to help you both agree on long-term solutions that are in the best interests of you and your family.

Your mediator will not force any decision on you and if you are not happy, you still have the option of going to Court. However, mediators can often see other options and possibilities that you might not have considered. If you can reach an agreement  with your mediator’s help, this will be flexible, allowing you to stay in control of your own future.

“Mediators can often see other options and possibilities that you might not have considered.”

Why use mediation?

Family mediation services

Mediation works because:

  • It helps you make informed decisions that are right for your circumstances, your future and the future of your family.
  • It provides somewhere to talk calmly and privately.
  • It can provide a cost effective solution.
  • It helps children by helping their parents to work together to plan for their future.

If you instead go to court to sort out your issues, the judge will make the decisions for you. You’ll be obliged to accept those decisions even if one – or indeed, both – of you disagrees.

Family mediation allows you to retain more control over what happens in your life. Unlike a judge, a mediator cannot (and will not try to) force decisions on you. Instead, they will work with both of you to find a solution that you can both accept. This may include proposing solutions you have not even thought about. Once you are both happy, they will explain how you can both make the agreement legally binding.

“Family mediation allows you to retain more control over what happens in your life.”

Do I have to use mediation?

If you and your ex disagree about a family matter, judges expect you to consider mediation before going to court. A judge can refuse to hear your case until you have taken this step. There are some exceptions – for example, where domestic violence is a factor.

Aside from the exceptions, since April 2011 it has been obligatory to attend a ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) before you go to court.

At the meeting, your Mediator will discuss:

  • Your options
  • What mediation is, and how it works
  • The benefits of mediation and any other appropriate ways of resolving your dispute
  • The likely costs of mediation

The MIAM meeting can be just with you, or with your ex as well. At the end of the meeting, you will get a form that you can show to the Court as evidence that mediation has been considered.In some cases it may be identified that mediation is unsuitable for your case. However, wherever possible, you should try to embrace mediation as a way to avoid unnecessary stress, wasted time and expense.

“The majority of people who start mediation are able to reach an agreement, without going to court to sort out the dispute.”

If I don’t use mediation, what could my divorce cost me?

Without mediation, the typical costs of a divorce where there is a matter in dispute are:

  • Matter in dispute involves a child: £3,000 – £8,000 + VAT
  • Matter in dispute involves finances: £10,000 – £20,000 + VAT

Of course, there are certain formalities that the Court does need to deal with, such as formally ending a marriage or dissolving a civil partnership. However, if everything is agreed, you won’t need to attend a hearing and the costs will be significantly lower.

Who will my mediator be?

Your family mediator will be a trained professional who works to standards and codes of practice laid down for mediators. They will be a Certified Mediator who is listed on the National Mediator Database.

Summary: Family mediation

  • Stay in control – you decide what happens (not a judge)
  • Maintain an amicable relationship with your ex – less stress and better if children are involved
  • Agreements can be made legal
  • Agreements can be changed as circumstances change
  • Often quicker and cheaper than if the case has to go to Court
  • You may be able to get mediation and legal support for mediation for free if you get legal aid.

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