Family Mediation – FAQ’s
Going through a family breakdown can be an extremely stressful time and can often be overwhelming for those involved. If you are going through a difficult separation and would like to reach agreement on issues in a cheaper, faster and less stressful way than through the court, mediation could be for you.
Our experienced family solicitor and mediator Richard Buckley has answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding family mediation.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a voluntary process allowing a couple to discuss issues involved in the breakdown of a relationship and, with the help of a mediator, agree those issues between themselves without court proceedings.
The mediator is impartial; their role is to assist those involved to have constructive and amicable discussions and to reach an agreement.
Surveys show mediation to be an effective way to manage relationship breakdowns and is successful in over 70% of cases.
What types of dispute can family mediation help?
Our accredited and experienced family mediator can help guide separating couples through their options and support them in discussing and resolving the issues that result from their separation. Typically, those issues relate to the arrangements for their children or the division of their financial assets.
Are family mediation vouchers available
The family mediation voucher scheme is a government-funded, time-limited scheme, providing a one-off financial contribution of £500 towards the cost of mediation, if eligible. The scheme is aimed at encouraging separating parents to resolve disputes through mediation rather than in court. It is expected that the family mediation voucher scheme will run until at least March 2023. All participants have to do is sign a consent form for us and we’ll do the rest.
Please get in touch with Richard Buckley if you have any questions regarding family mediation vouchers and your eligibility.
Is a family mediation agreement legally binding?
Any discussions that take place in mediation are on a “without prejudice” basis. This means that you can discuss matters freely, explore options and that any agreement reached is not legally binding. This also means that any conversations cannot be used in any court proceedings as evidence of discussions or offers made. However, if you both agree, you can have the agreements you made during mediation put into a legally binding order. One of the benefits mediation provides is the opportunity to reflect on discussions and take legal advice (or advice from other professionals such as financial advisors) before making an agreement legally binding if you so wish.
Can I refuse to attend family mediation?
Yes, you can refuse an invitation to attend family mediation. Mediation is entirely voluntary so, whilst there are lots of advantages to using mediation, it is up to you and your ex-partner. There are lots of other options available, including collaborative law, arbitration or court.
If you decide to explore family mediation, the first meeting you will have is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). The MIAM is an opportunity for you to meet with the mediator to consider if mediation would be the best option for you. If so, it will also outline how that mediation would work as there are several ways that mediation can be tailored to your circumstances. Generally, before you can make an application to the family court for an order in relation to children or a financial settlement on divorce, you have to attend a MIAM, unless specific exemptions apply.
Who can attend family mediation? Can I bring someone with me to family mediation?
Usually, family mediation takes place with just the parties that are going through the separation, along with the mediator. However, parties’ solicitors, financial advisors, family therapists or other professionals may attend mediation meetings to provide advice and support.
In cases involving children, particularly older children, it is important that the children have a voice. If it is agreed by both parents and the child themselves, then a specially trained mediator can meet with the child to discuss their parents’ separation. The mediator can then feed back to the parents what the child would like them to communicate.
How long does mediation take?
Every family breakup is different and requires different issues to be explored. We find on average there are 3-4 joint meetings, however, mediation can continue for as long as needed while it meets the needs of the parties involved.
One of the big advantages of mediation is that it can go at your pace. If you want a number of meetings in quick succession, then we can arrange this for you. If you prefer to space the meetings out to give time to reflect on the issues discussed, this is also fine.
We also offer a bespoke options for mediation such as online mediation which means we can work around your schedule and tailor our service to your needs.
What if family mediation doesn’t work?
Mediation is usually very successful at helping you reach agreements, but ultimately decisions are yours and your ex-partner’s. In the case that you cannot reach an agreement, we can discuss the next steps, to see if there are other options to avoid an application to court.
If an application to court is made, then nothing that was discussed in the mediation meetings can be mentioned to the court. If mediation isn’t fully successful but you have been able to reach agreement on some matters, it can still be helpful in narrowing down the issues you need to go to court over, saving expense and time.
How can family mediation help?
Every situation is different and therefore the key to helping participants move on from being stuck in deadlock is variable. Mediators are trained and experienced in using different ways of helping participants move on from any impasse. That may include providing legal information, proposing alternative options, helping them understand their options and hearing what the other participant has to say. As a neutral party, they will allow you both to raise your concerns whilst helping you to see the other person’s perspective and find common ground.
However, families come in all different shapes and sizes and so does divorce and separation. Therefore, having a “one size fits all” approach to family mediation limits those who can benefit from it. The mediation service we offer understands the benefits of a flexible approach tailored to the needs of the participants. For more information on the different types of mediation we provide please see our blog. (link to article)
What is hybrid mediation?
Hybrid mediation is a flexible and innovative approach to mediation that allows the mediator to have separate confidential meetings with parties (as well as joint meetings) to help best understand their thoughts and concerns. Hybrid mediation also often involves solicitors attending mediation meetings to advise and support their client during the meeting. I am one of only a few family lawyers in the country that are trained as a “hybrid mediator”.
What is the family mediation process?
The mediation process does not look the same for everyone, however, there are parts to the process that must always take place:
Should I use a mediator or a lawyer?
The answer is both. Lawyers play a really important role in mediation. They can be present during meetings to support and advise their clients and/or parties can review any proposals with their lawyer following mediation meetings so that any final decision is made after taking appropriate legal advice. Our mediator, Richard Buckley, is also an experienced family solicitor. In his role as a mediator he is unable to provide legal advice, but is able to share up to date legal information with those participating in mediation.
If you have any questions regarding family mediation, please do not hesitate to contact Richard Buckley.
Sign up for our newsletter
Please fill in the form below to receive legal updates and seminar invitations from our expert solicitors – straight to your inbox.