Family law mediators are specially trained to facilitate conversations and discussions between parties who have decided to separate. This can include discussions about financial matters, child arrangements and other practicalities relating to separation.
What are the steps for family mediation?
The family mediation process can look like this:
- An initial meeting with the mediator alone
- Obtaining information about the mediation process and asking questions
- An assessment of whether your case is suitable for mediation
- If so, your partner is invited to contact the mediator for an initial meeting
- Assuming both of you wish to proceed and the case is suitable for mediation, a joint meeting is arranged
- Over the course of joint meetings you both work to provide proposals and solutions
- If however you are intending to proceed to family court you may still need to have a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting, called a MIAM
What is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting?
The first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out if the process is right for you. Your family mediator can discuss this with you.
If you believe that your case is not suitable for the mediation process, you will need to show the judge that you have attended a MIAM and that you have considered mediation and any other suitable alternatives before going to court. There are some exemptions to this requirement.
Can I mediate even if I am in the family court?
Yes, you may have been asked by a judge or a family lawyer to mediate as well. Mediation is separate to the family court process, and it can run alongside it.
What you discuss in mediation is private and should not impact on any court proceedings. It is there to help encourage you to reach an agreement. Where mediation does influence a court is where you both reach an agreement. A Memorandum of Understanding is drawn up by your mediation and be presented to the court or the family lawyers who can convert this into a family law court order.
If mediation is unsuccessful, you can still go to the family court.
Can my child come to mediation?
In some circumstances it may be possible for your child to participate in mediation. This does depend on their age and maturity. A child should never be forced to take part in mediation if they did not wish to.
A child’s voice is important and there may be other ways that their wishes and feelings can be considered in the mediation process. In the family court, your child may speak with an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (known as Cafcass). The Cafcass report generated from these meeting can be used to help inform the decisions that are made through mediation.
How we can help you: our mediator – Honor Giles
Honor Giles is a Resolution trained family law mediator. Honor is also a specialist and experienced family lawyer, is a member of Resolution and registered with the Family Mediation Council.
Honor has extensive experience in relation to divorce/civil partnerships, financial settlements, children matters, domestic abuse and issues concerning cohabiting/unmarried couples.
Your mediator should always remain neutral, should not take sides and cannot offer you legal advice either. It is important, as part of the mediation process, that you still seek you own separate and independent family law advice from a solicitor. This will help you get the most out of the mediation process and help you reach an agreement.
Talking with your partner can be difficult for all sorts of reasons. Your mediator is to help keep your conversations focused and to encourage you both to reach a positive outcome in relation to your separation or divorce, finances and the children.
One obvious point is that the family mediator cannot provide you with separate and individualised, independent legal advice. The mediator can however, provide you with general legal and other information in an even handed way, to assist you both when working towards solutions. Through the mediation process you are always recommended to seek your own legal advice from a solicitor. This works hand in hand with mediation and to help you make an informed decision.
Mediation essentially runs parallel to any court proceedings if they are up and running. It does not prejudice the court proceedings and it should not cause any delays. If you are able to reach an agreement during family mediation then this can be converted, for example, into a consent order and approved by a judge. If, however, you are not able to reach an agreement during family mediation, then a judge can decide on the issue.
Yes, you can try family mediation again and if your situation has changed or there is a new issue you can come back to mediation again. This is all positive to help with communication, to identify the issues that you are finding difficult to resolve and to help you promote an overall agreement.
Try to avoid blaming one person or the other. Focus instead on the problem, identify what you can agree and therefore what remains in dispute; and then engage in joint problem solving. Compromise should not be underestimated and it is always important to provide positive and constructive feedback during family mediation.
Mediation can continue until there is a resolution between the couple. The initial meeting lasts approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Full mediation sessions usually last between 1 – 2 hours depending on the complexity of the situation.
Once you make contact with us, we can consider any pressure of time that you may be under and to work as quickly as possible to confirm a family mediation date for you. Overall, mediation can be arranged quickly and subject to screening interviews (to assess whether mediation is suitable), if suitable, a mediation session could be arranged within a matter of days.
Sometimes mediation, like any form of communication, can cause some stress and anxiety. There may be a history of conflict or you do not like confrontation. However, mediation is seen as a conciliatory process and the mediator is there to help reduce any tension and to allow you both to communicate effectively. It is important each person enters the mediation process able to discuss matters freely. Being prepared for mediation and understanding what you would like to get out of the process will help you and allow you also to feel more confident. Our mediator can speak to you about this.
Mediation is voluntary and you are not forced to attend mediation. You come to mediation by choice. However, family mediation may be recommended as an alternative to the family court process.
Our mediator can speak with both of you. It is natural for someone to be skeptical or unsure about how mediation may be able to help. Family mediation, of course, is a voluntary process and no one can be forced to mediate.
If you cannot reach an agreement through family mediation or that your case is not suitable, a family judge can ultimately decide on any issues that remain in dispute with you and your partner. Mediation is still a positive experience because it can significantly improve your communication with each other, and this can help promote an overall agreement by reducing any acrimony during future court proceedings.
We can discuss with you in advance the cost of mediation together with the next steps before you decide to proceed. The cost is usually split between both parties.
Our mediator is there to help you narrow the issues in dispute between you and to a point where it makes sense for both of you to agree on a way forward or a solution. The mediator will work with you both, to help find ways of reaching an outcome that you both consider will work.
Around 70% – 80% of cases settle during the mediation process and of those that do not settle, the majority of them will shortly afterwards. Family mediation therefore has an extremely high success rate. It allows you both to negotiate on your financial settlement and/or issues to do with the children.
Family mediation can work at any time. Sometimes, couples will want to try mediation right at the start before they start court proceedings. Equally, sometimes there are existing court proceedings but mediation is recommended with a view to help the couple resolve their differences and to end the family court’s involvement.
It is crucial that you feel safe both before, during and after mediation. Our mediator is sensitive to these issues, the different dynamics within relationships to include issues of domestic abuse and power imbalances. This will also form part of the screening process in terms of whether or not your case is suitable for family mediation in the first place. Our mediator will follow strict safety procedures to ensure that everyone is safe and secure during mediation. It is also possible to mediate by video so that you and your partner do not need to be psychically in the same place for the family mediation session.