What is mediation?
Family Mediation is a voluntary process used to help parties reach an agreement in relation to various issues following the breakdown of a relationship. It is facilitated by an independent third party known as a mediator.
What should be done before mediation begins?
It is important to consider what issues need to be resolved and gather any information that might be useful in advance of the session. For example, if you need assistance resolving finances, it would be helpful to gather documents such as bank statements, payslips etc. and ensure these are available.
What happens at mediation?
Mediation sessions usually involve joint meetings with either one or two mediators to discuss any issues that are in dispute. The parties will separately attend an initial assessment called an intake meeting to ensure that mediation is appropriate.
The mediator will listen to both parties and will try to assist them in reaching an agreement on how to move things forward and reach a resolution.
In some cases the mediator might agree “shuttle mediation” where parties sit separately in their own room, and the mediator moves between rooms during the mediation process. This can be beneficial when parties do not feel comfortable being in the same room. This type of mediation is often not considered appropriate where the parties are discussing the arrangements for children.
Mediation can also take place remotely if one party resides outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales or if both parties and the mediator agree that remote mediation is suitable.
The number of mediation sessions needed will vary depending on how many issues are in dispute and the complexity of matters.
What happens at the end of mediation?
At the end of the sessions, if an agreement has been reached, the mediator will usually provide a document known as a Memorandum of Understanding. This is a document setting out the agreements that have been reached. The document is not legally binding or enforceable so it is a good idea to take this document to a solicitor for advice.
A solicitor is able to use the Memorandum to prepare a draft consent order setting out the terms of that agreement. Once agreed, the consent order can be sent to the court for approval. A court order makes the agreement legally binding which is then enforceable.
Advantages of mediation
We often recommend mediation, as it can be the most successful way to resolve disputes. It helps clients make their own arrangements and, if successful, it can be much quicker and less stressful than going through court proceedings. It can also be much cheaper.
If you decide to make an application to the court at a later stage, you will often need to show you have considered mediation. In some cases you will be expected to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), unless you are exempt, before you are able to make an application to the court.
How much does mediation cost?
The cost of mediation varies depending on location and the issues in dispute. It is best to enquire with a range of mediators to find out what their charges are, but on average mediators charge approximately £140 per person per hour. The cost will usually be split between the parties, however if you receive a low income you may be eligible for legal aid. If one party is eligible, the legal aid agency will pay for both parties to attend one mediation session and they may pay for further sessions for the eligible party.
The Government has also set up a new family mediation voucher scheme whereby eligible parties can receive a one-off contribution of £500 towards mediation costs. The aim of this is to promote mediation and encourage parties to resolve disputes outside of court where possible. Cases involving children and finances are eligible for the scheme, but cases solely relating to finances will be ineligible. When attending a MIAM, the mediator will consider the eligibility requirements and if you are eligible for the voucher, the mediator will arrange for the voucher payment to be sent directly to them on completion of all mediation sessions. The mediator will deal with this so you do not need to apply for a voucher yourself.
What happens if mediation is unsuccessful?
Sometimes it will not be possible to reach an agreement at mediation. If that is the case, it would be advisable to speak to a solicitor to discuss your options. You may be encouraged to continue negotiations via solicitors or, alternatively, it may be necessary to make an application to the court for matters to be decided.
We are happy to discuss all options with clients, including mediation, and you should not hesitate to contact us at Lyons Davidson if you think we can be of any assistance.