How can I benefit from Family Mediation?

In family mediation you and your ex-partner meet with a mediator to help you to discuss issues and reach agreement on points in dispute.

But what is a mediator? A mediator is an independent neutral person who facilitates the two of you with constructive discussion. The mediator is trained in the skills to help you both look at the pros and cons of a variety of options in relation to any given issue. The mediator is adept at breaking down impasse as well as helping people to not only listen to the other but also to actively hear and process and understand what the other is saying. Emotions can often cause a stumbling block when trying to reach agreement and as a trained mediator I often find that trying to go behind the emotion to look at what the real worry and concern is can flush out something totally unrelated or unexpected that can then be addressed, so helping the original issue to move on.

How will I know if mediation is suitable for me? Your solicitor will be able to tell you more about mediation and advise you, but before attending a full mediation session you will have a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) where the mediator will take details from you in relation to the issues that you need to discuss, will explain the mediation process and will ask you about the dynamics between you and your ex-partner and whether there has been any domestic violence. Dependent upon the answers given, the mediator will decide whether mediation is suitable.

Do I have to be in the same room as my ex-partner? These days mediation can be undertaken online but, if in person, it is possible to have shuttle mediation where you are both in separate rooms and the mediator moves between you both.

Is mediation confidential? If your issues relate to financial matters then, during mediation, you will probably undertake financial disclosure where you should comprehensively disclose each to the other your financial situation. The financial information which you produce is not confidential in that it can be used in Court proceedings at a later date. However, negotiations that take place within mediation are confidential and you will sign an ‘agreement to mediate’ which sets out details about confidentiality.

How do I get legal advice if the mediator is impartial? The mediator can give legal information but will not advise. It is therefore most important, especially in relation to financial matters, that you have a solicitor that you liaise with between sessions so that the solicitor can give you legal advice on your options.

Can my solicitor be present at the mediation? Hybrid mediation is a form of mediation which allows for this, although traditional mediation is undertaken without solicitors present.

So what if we reach agreement? If the agreement relates to financial matters the mediator will usually draw up a memorandum of understanding which you will then take to your solicitors to discuss. Provided everyone is an agreement the solicitors will then draw up an order of the court reflecting the terms of the memorandum. In relation to children matters your mediator can help you both draw up a parenting plan.

Rachel Lander

Senior Solicitor;  Hawkins Family Law