Family mediation is an effective process for resolving a range of disputes in the context of a divorce, relationship breakdown or other family matter. This will often include sorting out the arrangements for any children and dealing with financial matters, but can also include any other issues that you feel can usefully be addressed.
Mediation is not counselling and it is not designed to explore whether the relationship itself can continue. Rather than directly dealing with the emotional impact of the relationship breakdown, it is instead focussed on managing the practical arrangements that must be addressed as a result of the breakdown. It is focussed on the future.
It is a voluntary process where you decide the issues that you want to address, putting you in control.
What happens in family mediation?
The mediation sessions provide a flexible, bespoke forum, bringing you and the other party together in order to help identify, discuss and resolve the issues that you need to address.
The role of the mediator is to skilfully guide the discussions, by providing a structure to the issues that need to be addressed and ensuring the conversations continue in a productive and helpful manner. The mediator is independent but is there to assist you both in understanding what is important to you and to ensure you can make fully informed decisions about the future for you and your family. This is done by reality testing any potential options that are being explored.
While a mediator cannot provide legal advice they can provide relevant information, including legal information, and can signpost you to other resources that will be helpful as the process unfolds.
If dealing with financial matters, the negotiations that take place within mediation are without prejudice, meaning that you should feel free to propose solutions safe in the knowledge that you will not be prejudiced if court proceedings later become necessary. Due to the without prejudice nature of the mediation process, you will usually be referred to solicitors to document any mutually agreeable solutions. The solicitors can then ensure that binding agreements, which are appropriately enforceable, are in place. Again, the mediator is there to offer assistance and guidance on when this may be appropriate.
How long will mediation take?
The mediation process is flexible and can be adapted the specific needs of the parties involved. Typically, mediation sessions will last approximately one hour and thirty minutes, but some people prefer longer or shorter sessions. The number of sessions required will depend on the number and complexity of the issues involved, but it is common for there to be around three to five sessions. It should be clear by that stage whether mediation is likely to produce a helpful outcome.
If mediation is not successful, you can still explore other avenues for resolving the issues, including court proceedings. However, judges generally now expect parties to have considered mediation before court applications are made. Many people will also find that mediation helps focus on the issues to be addressed, meaning that even if a full resolution is not reached it is likely that a partial resolution will be achieved that makes any further process quicker and less expensive than it would otherwise have been.