Most parties think the only way to reach an agreement regarding finances and arrangements for children is to engage in a costly and timely legal battle. There are however other ways in which a financial settlement can be finalised, such as through mediation or collaborative practice.
Mediation is a voluntary process whereby two parties use the assistance of a neutral third party (the mediator) to help them reach an agreement. The mediator does not advise either party, instead they facilitate discussions and explore potential options for a settlement.
Although mediation is a voluntary process, where family court proceedings are to be issued there is a legal requirement for the party making the application to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) before any application [save for some urgent matters] will be issued by the court. The party responding to the application does not have to attend a MIAM and it is a voluntary choice for them. The aim of a MIAM is to assess whether there is a way to resolve matters outside of the courtroom.
The latest figures produced by the Ministry of Justice show that the number of MIAMs increased by 14% between April – June 2019 in comparison to the same time period in 2018. The figures also show that the successful outcomes of mediation are continuing to increase. The statistics demonstrate that when both parties choose to engage in mediation there is a good chance it will lead to a positive result showing that mediation is an effective alternative to resolving disputes outside of court.
If both parties have agreed to divorce, are in an amicable position and looking to do what is best for their children, getting involved in an inflexible court process where a final decision will be made by a Judge may not be appropriate. Mediation may be a suitable alternative and its key advantages are that it is cheaper and quicker than court proceedings, both parties remain in control of decisions concerning both themselves and their children, negotiations can be a lot more flexible as opposed to a Judge imposing orders on the parties at a final hearing and all discussions are confidential.
Another alternative option to court proceedings is using the collaborative law approach. This is where each party instructs a collaboratively trained solicitor and there are a number of four way meetings with both parties and their respective solicitors to attempt to reach an agreement. Where there has been domestic abuse or there is an obvious imbalance in power, the collaborative process will not be suitable but where it is, it can be an opportunity to reach a solution.
Like mediation, the collaborative approach is often quicker, cheaper and more flexible than court proceedings. Additionally, as both parties solicitors will be present at the meetings, questions can be answered and advice given immediately and a level of trust can be built between all involved. Both parties and their lawyers will be working together to come to an agreement. Prior to the first meeting each party will prepare a statement setting out what outcome they are hoping to achieve from the collaborative process which will keep both parties focused. It will most likely take more than one meeting to reach an agreed settlement but once this has been reached, a consent order can be drafted and lodged at court.
At Lupton Fawcett we have modern, comfortable offices where your mediation or collaborative law meetings can take place. Our Senior Solicitor, Richard Buckley is accredited as a family mediator with the Family Mediation Council and is a Collaborative lawyer who can help you negotiate your financial settlements.
If you would like to speak a member of our Family team about using one of the above methods to negotiate and resolve financial and/or child matters instead of going to court, please contact Richard Buckley on 0114 228 3293 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our family law team at our offices in York, Leeds and Sheffield.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.