Mediation Services – Family law and divorce mediation
Family mediation is a process in which an impartial mediator helps divorcing or separating couples to make decisions about their children, finances and property and in most disputed divorce cases receiving information about mediation is compulsory and you will not get near a court room until you have at least explored whether mediation might be suitable for you.
Mediation is not marriage advice or counseling as some people think. It is in essence dispute resolution, and is designed to help you reach your own agreements without the need for divorce lawyers.
From April 2012 legal aid and legal help will no longer be available for people wishing to get divorced or apply to the courts to resolve financial disputes or deal with residence and contact cases. Only where there is proof of domestic violence will legal aid be available. Some think this will now produce a more level playing field as couples will no longer have the state paying for them to fight in court over what is effectively a private matter. Couples will no longer be able to afford divorce lawyers and the UK Government is pumping in millions of pounds into mediation so that hopefully couples will avoid going to court.
How does Mediation actually work in practice?
Generally the process involves 5 or 6 meetings. In the early stages both of you will provide full disclosure in a form that is easy to deal with. After verifying that information with each other, the mediator will help you set an agenda of all the issues to be resolved, and then take you through it in a focussed way, with the ultimate aim of assisting you to reach your own solutions.
If a solution is reached the proposals are formulated into a Memorandum of Understanding which is not yet binding but which will enable you to take legal advice. It is important to note that at any stage of the process, you can seek legal advice, and we will actively recommend this. You may also need to take advice from other professionals, such as accountants or tax advisors.
In order for the agreement to be finalised and made binding, legal advice will be necessary and your solicitor will incorporate the terms into an Order. In most cases, there will not be any need for either of you to attend court, and the Order is dealt with by your solicitor.
The process takes approximately 3-4 months, but the speed will depend on the issues to be resolved. In our experience the costs are usually less than if both parties instruct solicitors from the outset. Help with funding mediation may also be available, and this is something we will discuss at the first meeting.
Mediation is entirely confidential and discussions are always ‘without prejudice’ which means that it is not binding and cannot be shown to any other person. It is a very honest, open and frank way of resolving disputes and relies upon your input, which ultimately we hope will lead to you reaching a solution that is acceptable to both of you.
Mediation is a voluntary process, but if it should break down then other ways of resolving a dispute can continue.