Even the most amicable of splits can start to become difficult when it comes to apportioning assets and, if you have children, agreeing on access and contact. Mediation has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of avoiding acrimonious legal proceedings. But what exactly is it and how does it work?
The role of a mediator is to help you and your partner identify your issues of conflict and help you identify how best you can resolve them. There may be many areas of conflict where agreement needs to be reached, or disagreement could be on specific issues such as the future living arrangements for your children.
The mediator’s role in the process is impartial. They are not able to take sides with one party against the other. Their overall purpose is to provide a framework that enables you to identify the key issues and come to a mutually acceptable solution. QualitySolicitors have really good family solicitors who can provide a mediation service and, if being in the same room is too difficult, can even offer separate sessions.
Who is mediation suitable for?
It is now a requirement that anyone (with some exceptions) wishing to go to a family court should attend a meeting with a qualified mediator to establish whether there are any alternatives to going to court. This is because court should be used as the last resort. Agreements that come about because of court decisions do not generally work as well as those that have been made jointly and where both parties are satisfied with the decision. It is also beneficial for any children involved to see their parents cooperating with each other.
Mediation information and assessment meeting
At this first meeting the mediator will explain to you how mediation works and whether there are other types of dispute resolution other than court that may be helpful to you. They will explain the costs of mediations vs. the cost of litigation, assess whether mediation is appropriate for your case and, if so, whether you will qualify for Legal Aid. They will then contact your partner and have the same discussion with them.
If mediation is appropriate and you decide to go ahead with it, future meetings will take place where you will work on communication, agree the arrangements for children and deal with financial disagreements. Once you have are both happy with the proposals, the mediator will draw up an agreement that you should take legal advice on and, once signed, it will become legally binding.
It is important to remember that mediation is voluntary and there can be circumstances where it is not appropriate, for example, in situations where there has been serious domestic violence or inequality of power within a relationship. In most other circumstances however, the Court does expect you to find out about mediation before applying to them and, if you don’t, they can put your case on hold until you do so.