20th January 2020
This week (20th – 24th January 2020) is Family Mediation Week and an opportune time to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help families going through separation.
In this blog we are sharing some information about what mediation is, the process and some examples of where it could be just the answer you are looking for to resolve ongoing family issues without having to take court action.
Support Through Difficult Family Matters
Going through a separation can be difficult. Whether you are coming out of a long marriage with complicated finances, children and property to agree on or whether you are coming out of a simpler, shorter-lived relationship.
Regardless of your circumstances, your emotions will be running high and you are likely to feel uneasy about what the future holds for you. This is a time where you need practical help to reach a suitable resolution.
Family mediation could be the life-line you are looking for at this time.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process where couples (or other family members) discuss issues arising from a divorce or separation in the presence of a trained neutral party to reach an agreement that both parties are comfortable with.
Mediation usually takes place in the Mediator’s office around a table with the objective being to facilitate calm discussions about certain topics and help both sides to reach agreement through rational thinking and compromise.
Once agreements have been made these are drawn up and signed providing you with a structure or plan for the years ahead that can give you both peace of mind. You could take this a step further and have a consent order put together based on your agreements reached at mediation which would stand up in court if broken.
What can be Discussed at Mediation Sessions?
Any matters that are important to you surrounding the breakdown of a relationship can be discussed during mediation sessions. Typically, couples tend to discuss children arrangements and finances, but discussions could include more specific matters that are a priority to you. This could include a family business, property, arrangements for certain belongings or pets etc.
Agendas are used to keep the conversations on track and allow you to prepare for each session.
What is the Basic Process?
Before the mediation process can fully begin you must both attend an individual session with the mediator for the purpose of assessing whether your circumstances are suitable for mediation. This meeting will also give you all the information that you need in order to make an informed decision about continuing with the process or going down a different route.
After your first meeting you will then start the process of attending joint meetings with your ex-partner. Couples tend to have anywhere between 1 to 5 sessions before reaching agreement, depending on how much there is to discuss and how agreeable both parties are.
It is advisable to seek your own independent legal advice in-between sessions or before agreeing to proposals to ensure that your best interests are protected. Remember that the Mediator’s job is to facilitate discussions and be impartial, not to give you legal advice.
The Benefits of Mediation
There are many benefits to choosing mediation over using separate firms of solicitors and attending court. The main benefit that clients appreciate is that it maintains a level of dignity and amicability within the relationship. This is of particular appeal to those separating with children who want to maintain a parental relationship as they will continue to be a part of each other’s lives.
Another plus is that this process can be quicker and more cost effective than attending court.
Mediation is a voluntary process, therefore decisions about your future are made between you rather than imposed by the Courts. The sessions can be tailored to what matters most to you and the process tends to be less stressful and reduces conflict.
When is Mediation Suitable?
Most couples should be deemed suitable for mediation if they are willing to be flexible, reasonable, respectful and have a structured conversation that focuses on the future.
It is particularly useful for those with young children, those who work together or run a business together that want to remain amicable or anyone who just wants to avoid the animosity of court.
Mediation could be used right from the start of a separation. It can often help to seek your own legal advice first before embarking on mediation.
Alternatively, you could start mediation later down the line after a separation or divorce when bumps in the road occur, using mediation to resolve matters and move forward.
When is Mediation Not Suitable?
It would be quickly determined if your situation was not suitable for mediation from your initial phone call or appointment with a Mediator.
Scenarios where mediation is not suitable would be when there have been issues of trust, domestic violence or abuse in the past. Where your ex-partner is not contactable or unlikely to engage with he process, where the relationship is very unstable or where one party requires special protection or is vulnerable – for example they have a disability, learning difficulties or require a translator.
If you are not sure, then speak to us today and we will be able to guide on which alternative route is best to take in your situation.
Continue reading for common myths about mediation…
What Happens if you Can’t Agree?
If you follow the mediation process and are still unable to agree then it is advised that you seek independent legal advice which may mean taking the matter to court or adopting a solicitor-led negotiation. If agreements are broken or circumstances change where the communication has broken down, then you could re-start mediation in order to resolve matters.
Myths About Mediation
Mediation is not couples counselling and it is not a tool to try and help couples get back together.
Your Mediator is not able to give you legal advice. They must remain impartial and fair at all times. They therefore can only give information and guide the conversation. If you need legal advice, the mediator will signpost you to your solicitor.
A court would prefer that you to tried mediation first before using courts time on matters than could be sorted outside of the court room.
Mediators go through a detailed training process to earn their mediator status. They must remain impartial and fair at all times. They have a good understanding of what are reasonable arrangements but will not take any sides or give advice which is why your mediator can not also be your solicitor.
It is quite common for people to think that they won’t be successful at mediation as they find it hard to agree with their ex-partner. However, many people find that both parties are keen to move matter along and in the presence of a trained professional they can become quite reasonable, flexible and understanding. When arguments or bitter text messages are out of the equation you can actually move forward and find some common ground.
If you are interested in using family mediation, please contact our mediation administrator, Julia McGuigan on 01256 305596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
Lamb Brooks LLP
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