Family Mediation FAQ
Mediation helps you sort arrangements for children and finance
If you’ve just split-up, you’re getting a divorce or dissolving a civil partnership or you’ve been separated for a while, you might need to sort out arrangements with your ex or other family members. Family mediation helps all sorts of people: married and unmarried, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and young people can all take part.
What is Family Mediation?
When two people separate, there are usually several decisions that have to be made about issues such as:
• How to separate
• What to say to the children
• Who will live where
• The distribution of money and property
Mediation provides an opportunity for you to consider some or all of these matters together and with the help of a mediator to decide jointly what you think are the best arrangements for you and your family.
We have now booked you a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (or MIAM) with one of our mediators so that you can discuss in more detail the issues that need to be resolved and to decide if mediation is the right way forward. If mediation isn’t right then the mediator can help you explore other ways to resolve the issues.
This factsheet gives you more information about how mediation works and how the service manages your file. The mediator will spend some time at your MIAM making sure you understand how this will impact your case and check out any concerns you have about what will happen next.
How Mediation Works?
A mediator will meet with you both for a series of sessions, in which you will be helped to:
• Make a list of all the matters you wish to consider
• Collect the necessary information
• Talk about the choices open to you
• Negotiate with each other to reach decisions that are practicable and acceptable to you both
• Discuss how you can consult your children appropriately about arrangements you decide to make
What the Mediator Does?
The mediator’s job is to act as an impartial third party, helping you to exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively so that you can progress towards joint decision-making. The mediator has no power to impose a settlement; responsibility for all decisions remains with you both since you will know better than anyone what is right for your family.
After a mediation appointment, the mediator will usually provide a summary of the outcome of that meeting to help you take the next steps. This might include the options you have considered, the agreements you have made, things you need to research or information you need to provide at the next meeting.
At the end of mediation, the mediator will usually prepare a full mediation summary outlining the decisions you have reached. If you have mediated about finances this might be two formal documents – an Open Finance Statement and a Memorandum of Understanding.
Do I need to Take Legal and Other Advice?
The mediator must remain impartial so is not able to advise you about which option is best or work to protect your interests. At certain points in mediation, the mediator may recommend you seek independent advice outside of mediation, including legal advice. The mediator will usually draw up a summary of mediation to help you do this and can also provide details about local solicitors or other organisations if you do not already have this information.
The decisions you make in mediation are not immediately legally binding but can form the basis of a financial and/or child arrangements order. We will prepare documents that make this next stage as straightforward as possible and you can discuss next steps with your mediator to help you decide on the best route to achieve a binding agreement.
How Long Mediation Takes?
That depends on the number and complexity of the issues, and the amount of co-operation between you. At your first joint meeting, the mediator will discuss the likely length and cost of mediation – usually, we would expect you to attend between 3 and 5 meetings after your initial appointment (MIAM). Mediation appointments usually last up to 90 minutes.
What is Agreement to Mediate?
If you both agree to mediation, you will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate which includes a declaration that you agree to be open and honest with each other and not do anything which might pre-judge the outcome of the discussion. Mediation remains a voluntary process and either of you is free to withdraw from it at any time. The mediator also reserves the right to withdraw from mediation if it becomes clear, for whatever reason, that further progress is unlikely to be made.
Is Mediation Confidential?
Yes, mediation is confidential We will never pass contact details or other personal information on to a third party without your agreement other than in the circumstances stated below:
• We must contact the appropriate authority if we think that you or another party to mediation is at risk of harm.
• By law, we must report to the appropriate authority any suspicion of money laundering by people undertaking mediation.
Is Mediation Privilege?
Courts are likely to regard the discussions as privileged. What you say during mediation cannot later be used in Court as evidence. We will ask each of you to agree that all discussions during mediation take place only to attempt to reach a settlement and are on the basis that they are confidential and will not be referred to in evidence in any court proceedings or affidavit about the same issue.
Facts disclosed during mediation are regarded as open, this includes the information provided when mediating about finances. This information will need to be verified with supporting documents during mediation. While it remains confidential, the information may be used subsequently in court. This means that if an agreement is not reached in mediation, you can still use it as the basis for further discussions.
How Family Mediation Helps?
It gives you more say about what happens.
• It is less stressful, with less conflict between you and your ex.
• The agreements you make can be changed if your circumstances change.
• It can be less upsetting or damaging for any children involved – and helps them continue important family relationships.
• It can be quicker and cheaper than long drawn-out court battles
Why choose Family Mediation?
Family mediators are there to help you reach decisions about things that are important for you and your family. They can help you find a way to plan for the future and to agree what will work best for you without having to go to court. That can save you time, money, and stress.
Mediation provides you with the space and time to think about what is most important for your children and for the whole family. You can work out how arrangements for your children will work best and think about what is going to be important for your children as they grow up.
Regardless of whether you are a parent or not, mediation can help you deal with your money, the options you may have about where you will live, and planning your future finances.
When Should I try Family Mediation?
Contact a mediator as soon as you need help sorting things out. Even if you have been separated for a while, or if your case has already gone to court, mediation can still help to resolve things.
You cannot usually take your case to court until you find out if mediation can help you first. If you cannot show that you have considered it, the judge may stop or delay proceedings until you have. Once you have found a mediator, the next step is to attend a first meeting with them to find out if it is right for you. Sometimes this is called a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
If your case is not suitable for mediation, you will still need to show the judge you have considered it
by filling in the relevant court form.
When Mediation Might Not be Suitable?
Family mediation works for many people, but it is not right for everyone.
It may not work if:
• Someone’s safety is at risk, for example, where domestic violence or child abuse is involved. If you have evidence of the violence or abuse, you can take your case straight to court without having to consider mediation. You may qualify for legal aid to do this.
• Your dispute is about financial issues and you or your partner is bankrupt.
• You do not know where your ex is and cannot contact them.
• Your mediator thinks mediation will not be suitable for you.
If your case is not suitable for mediation, you will still need to show the judge why by filling in the appropriate Court Form (please ask your Mediator or Solicitor, if you have one, for the appropriate form).