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What is Family Mediation?

Family mediation is a voluntary process where an independent professionally trained mediator assists people separating or divorcing to work out an agreement after a separation. It is not about getting people back together but how people agree to live apart. It can help to sort out issues such as:

  • Arrangements for children, including contact or living arrangements; and
  • Financial arrangements, including issues around sharing finances (the house, savings, pension, debts) or child maintenance.

The family mediator’s role is to listen to the concerns and help sort out arrangements. Even if you have been separated for a while or if your case has already gone to court, mediation can help to resolve any dispute you may have.

Mediation can also help in finding solutions between parents and grandparents or assist in any personal or professional family dispute, including inheritance issues or impact of a move or career change.

What is a MIAM?

Once you agree that you want to try mediation, the first step is to attend a meeting with the mediator called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). You can go with your partner, or you can see the mediator separately if you prefer. Your partner can see the mediator for a MIAM also if they so wish.

The purpose of the MIAM is for you to understand the process and to consider whether mediation is right for you in your situation. After the MIAM, if you both agree and the mediator believes it to be suitable, a mediation session will be set-up for you both to attend.

What happens if I go to Family Mediation?

If you agree to try mediation, you will need to attend a mediation session which usually lasts 2 hours. When an agreement is reached, the mediator will write it down in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ document so that everyone is clear about what has been decided.

You can ask the court to make the agreement legally binding if both of you agree. This is useful if arrangements are meant to run over a period of time, such as child maintenance payments, or when people are concerned that one person will not stick to the agreement.

What is a family mediator’s role?

A family mediator guides and facilitates discussions, keeping it as informal as possible. They are neutral. They are not a judge, do not form a view or impose any decision or take sides. However, they will challenge and ask difficult questions in order to help identify issues and find joint solutions.

When do I need Family Mediation?

Family mediation can be used at any time to resolve a dispute involving to or more people where there is an existing relationship.

Can children be involved in the process?

All children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the mediation if they wish and as long as all agree.

Will I get a record of what was said in mediation?

Everything discussed within the mediation is confidential and as such, you will only get a record of what was said if you agree and request it in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding document from the mediator.

How many mediation sessions are needed?

It depends upon how quickly you are able to agree on all of the issues. It can sometimes take one session or several sessions.

Is mediation confidential?

Mediation is completely confidential. Mediators have a duty not to disclose anything outside of the discussions. There are two exceptions – if there is a danger to children or criminal activity.

What is the difference between relationship counselling and family mediation?

Family mediation is a business discussion about how you are able to separate in respect of finances and children. Counselling often focuses upon repairing a relationship.

What is the difference between using a solicitor and a mediator?

A solicitor is legally trained, giving you legal advice in your case, preparing court documents for you. A solicitor does not meet the other party and only represents you. A mediator can be legally trained as a solicitor also, however, they do not give legal advice or represent either person; instead, the mediator works with both of you, managing the discussions and negotiations, keeping in mind the main issues to be discussed.

Do I have to attend a Family Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process and consequently you are not compelled to attend. However, the law has changed in recent years in the hope that more people will use mediation to resolve all matters relating to divorce and separation. Judges in family courts are increasingly asking whether mediation has been attempted and if not, why not. There are occasions when family mediation is not appropriate and the mediator will assess in the first meeting whether any of the exceptions apply.

When is Family Mediation not suitable?

Cases where someone’s safety is at risk, for example domestic or child abuse. If you have evidence of abuse you can take your case straight to court without having to consider mediation.

What if things do not go as planned afterwards?

If the situation changes and the arrangements are not working, you can go back to the mediator If needed, you can agree to change the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ document.

How much will Mediation cost?

It depends on the complexity of the issues involved. The mediator will give you an estimate of the cost of the mediation at the MIAM.

Why choose Family Mediation?

  • It gives you more of a say about what happens and you determine the outcome. In court a Judge will make the decisions. Most arrangements are more effective if they are agreed upon rather than imposed by a Judge
  • There is a higher prospect of success where agreements are made by co-operation rather than enforced by a court.
  • Agreements can be made legally binding if you both so wish and can therefore have the same effect as going to court.
  • It is a much quicker process then drawn-out court battles, and agreements can be reached in one or two mediation sessions rather than in courts, which can take on average between 6 to 12 months.
  • Mediation is a cost-effective way of sorting any differences you have with your ex-partner about money, property or children.
  • It is less stressful and can often preserve relationships as you and your ex-partner work together to resolve issues and improve communication. Arrangements are often more long-lasting than court-imposed decisions.
  • It is less upsetting for children when parents work together and they can even be involved in the decision-making process if you both and your child agree.
  • It is a flexible process. Court hearings take a format and outcomes can often leave little room for change. Agreements in mediation are flexible and can change as, for example, children’s needs change as they get older.
  • It is a confidential process and no details can be made public without your consent.
  • It reduces conflict rather than using a solicitor or going to court which often increases the intensity of the dispute.

Is Family Mediation right for everyone?

No. The MIAM is used for discussing whether mediation will work for you both. If mediation is not right there may be other options that will still avoid you having to go to court, for example collaborative law, family arbitration or solicitor negotiation.

What if I want to go to Court?

You will still need to show the court that you:

  1. Attended a MIAM to find out about mediation or
  2. Are exempt from having to do this, for example because violence or abuse is involved .

If you have already seen a solicitor, they should explain all of this to you.

What is a C100 Form?

The C100 Court Form is an official form completed by a person who is requesting the court to make an legally binding Order:

  1. Child Arrangement Order – to cover where the child lives and whom the child spends time with (these were previously called residence and contact orders);
  2. Prohibited Steps Order – to prevent an action, regardless of parental responsibilities.
  3. Specific Issue Order – to give direction regarding a specific question of parental responsibility.

Call us now on 07958 023 377 for a confidential and no obligation initial consultation or email our mediation expert Dominic Geodjenian at [email protected] .