What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation helps you to find better solutions to all issues surrounding separation, divorce and family dissolution in a constructive and supportive way.
An impartial Family Mediator, with formal training and experience in dealing with conflict and emotional situations, will help you and your former partner to work through topics such as property, finance, and childcare.
Frequently Asked Questions
Already know about the mediation process, but have questions that remain unanswered?
There are three stages to the Family Mediation process...
MIAM stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. In this meeting, you have the opportunity to talk through your situation with your Mediator, decide whether the process is right for you, and make plans for future joint mediation sessions.
Mediation Sessions are usually joint meetings between you are your former partner.
A Family Mediator will facilitate the meeting, helping you to clarify the issues, identify options, negotiate constructively and arrive at joint proposals on matters that commonly include property, finance, and children.
At the end of mediation, the proposals you and your former partner have agreed to will be recorded for you in a document by the Mediator.
These proposals can be made legally binding with the assistance of a solicitor, should you wish.
What are the benefits of Family Mediation?
- Improved outcomes for children: Research clearly shows that co-operative parenting and low conflict improves outcomes for children. Family mediation supports parents to develop good relationships after separation.
- Reduced stress and conflict: The court process is inflexible and adversarial by nature, thereby usually increasing stress and conflict. A family mediator will be flexible to your needs, to help reduce stress, and will help you to improve communication between you, to reduce conflict.
- It’s usually quicker than going to court: According to statistics from the National Audit Office, family mediation takes an average of 110 days, compared with 435 days for non-mediated cases. That is equivalent to a time saving of 10.5 months!
- You stay in control of the decisions: Court outcomes can be uncertain and sometimes feel arbitrary. Whereas, a family mediator will help you to find solutions that work for you and your family and will explain how these can be made legally binding.
- It’s usually cheaper than going to court: The National Audit Report in 2012 found that the average cost per person for mediation was £675, whereas the average cost for cases going to court was £2,823. This is an average saving of £2,148 per person.
- Mediation is confidential: The mediation process provides a safe, confidential space for you to be able to address family issues and negotiate joint proposals. Meetings are held in a neutral venue.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a good Family Mediator?
It is important to find a family mediator who is well trained and in whom you can feel a sense of both professional confidence and personal trust. The following lists those attributes we believe are of vital importance to making a good mediator:
- Accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC): Only FMC Accredited mediators can sign court forms. These mediators have been through a casework-based accreditation process that evidences their understanding of the theories, principals and skills of mediation. It also confirms that they have been trained by an organisation recognised by the FMC, that they maintain membership with one of the FMC membership organisations, that they are keeping up to date through continuous professional development and that they are insured.
- Knowledgeable: Part of the family mediator’s role is to be able to give information to enable parties to make informed decisions. This includes information about children, their development and their responses to conflict / family breakdown, as well as information about relevant law and legal processes.
- Skilled in conflict resolution: Mediator’s must have the necessary skills and knowledge to deal effectively with conflict and difficult emotional situations that may arise in mediation.
- Compassionate, patient, hopeful and kind: When experiencing relationship breakdown and/or dealing with conflict relating to significant aspects in our life, many people embark on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing a vast range of emotions. Good mediators understand this and seek to practice with compassion, patience, hope and kindness.
When is family mediation not suitable?
Although it is a mandatory requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessement Meeting (MIAM) before applying to court, joint family mediation sessions are not. Below is a summary of factors and situations where mediation may or may not be suitable.
There is the best chance of success in mediation when both clients are:
- Motivated to resolve their issues
- Prepared to listen to one another
- Wish to be fair with one another
- Able to keep the best interests of the children in mind
- Able to negotiate
Mediation could be more difficult or deemed unsuitable for the following reasons:
- Legal considerations – e.g. where there is an urgent need to apply to court to stop a child being abducted, or, in the case of disputes over secure tenancies, where there is no hope of agreement between parties because an agreement would render one party intentionally homeless
- Poor mental or physical health
- Significant emotional imbalance, for example where one party has moved on, with the other in a state of significant distress at the end of the relationship
- When there has been domestic violence that has left one party in fear of the other
- When one or both parties will not give full financial disclosure in a financial case
In what ways will a family mediator support me?
Family mediators are facilitators and will support you to have conversations that are difficult. A family mediator will help you to keep focused on the things you have said you want to talk about in sessions, will endeavour to ensure conversations are balanced and will challenge unhelpful or abusive behaviour.
Family mediators can also be very helpful in giving information about all sorts of matters relevant to divorce/separation, for example, the law in relation to children/divorce/finances, legal processes, child development, research about children in relation to divorce, etc. However, family mediators are not allowed to give advice, as this would affect their impartiality. Where advice or other support is needed your family mediator will be able to signpost you to other services.
Do both parties have to attend mediation at the same time?
At your first meeting with a mediator, the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), meetings are usually one-to-one, with each client seeing the mediator separately. At this meeting it will be decided how best to proceed with the mediation process itself.
Once mediation is underway, the most common model is for both parties to meet together with the mediator in the same room. This is because by meeting together there is greater opportunity for meaningful dialogue, which can help to reduce conflict and lead to an improved future relationship as co-parents, where relevant. This model is also quicker, and therefore cheaper, as discussions flow more freely.
However, if it is too uncomfortable, or not possible, to meet in the same room, there are other mediation models that can be considered. For example, mediation can take place in the same venue, at the same time, but in two different rooms with the mediator “shuttling” between the rooms. This model is called shuttle mediation.
The mediation process is a flexible one, so there are also other options that can be considered, depending on the specifics of your case. If you or your mediator thinks that some other model may be appropriate, perhaps involving a solicitor, a financial advisor, or other relevant professional, this can be discussed and agreed between us.
Can mediation proposals be made legally binding?
Yes. Joint proposals arrived at in mediation can be made legally binding in a number of ways. Most commonly, mediation outcomes are converted into consent orders or private agreements by a solicitor. Consent orders are then submitted to the court to be ratified. Parenting Plans can also be signed to confirm your intention to be bound by the agreements contained within, making them a type of private agreement.
Your mediator will help you to understand the options available to you, dependent on the specifics of your case.
How long does Family Mediation take?
This is a difficult question to answer, as it depends a great number of factors, including how many issues there are to deal with, how able you are to communicate constructively, how willing you are to look for solutions that are mutually beneficial, and how organised you are in terms of bringing the right things to sessions.
As a general guide we estimate 1-2 sessions for mediations about children only, 3+ sessions for child inclusive mediation, 4 sessions for mediations about property/finance only, and 5+ sessions for mediations dealing with children and property/finance issues.
Sessions can be close together or spaced out, depending on circumstance and preference. For example, if you are discussing children matters it is usually appropriate to have sessions reasonably close together and keep the momentum of the process going. However, when mediating regarding financial matters it is sometimes necessary to have breaks of several weeks, in order to allow you time to gather necessary information/documents.
How much does Family Mediation cost?
Family mediation is charged on an hourly rate, so costs depend on how many hours of mediation you have had and what outcome documents you require.
What documents are produced in mediation and what are they all for?
Mediators produce a number of different types of documents the most common ones are:
- Open Financial Summary: this document summarises the full financial disclosure of both parties. It includes background information, information about assets, debts and liabilities, information about incomes and current expenditures and includes a schedule of all documents seen in mediation. If you are applying for a consent order you will be required to submit this document to court with your application to facilitate the judge to consider your proposals.
Because this document is based on factual evidence it is not legally privileged. Therefore it can also be used as the basis for negotiations outside of mediations, or in court proceedings, should mediation not be successful.
- Memorandum of Understanding: this document is produced at the end of mediation and outlines your proposals in relation to your children and finances. It’s purpose is to provide all the information your solicitor needs to write up a consent order or separation agreement, or to otherwise help you to implement your proposals. The proposals in the Memorandum are confidential and legally privileged and are not legally binding until you make them such by converting them into a legal document. It is always best to take independent legal advice before making any proposal legally binding.
- Parenting Plan: a parenting plan is a document written from your perspective. It outlines any agreements you have come to in relation to arrangements for your children. Because it is a document that you both sign it is not considered legally privileged and could be seen by the court should one or other of you break your agreements.
- Statement of Outcome: this document records the outcomes of mediation in a shorter form than a full Memorandum of Understanding. It is usually used to record children arrangements where a Parenting Plan not wanted/needed. However, it can also be used to record financial or interim outcomes where appropriate. It is a legally privileged document.
What is full financial disclosure?
Full financial disclosure describes the process of both parties openly showing each other information about all their assets, debts, liabilities, income and expenses.
Whatever process you chose (mediation/solicitor negotiation/court), full financial disclosure will be a requirement as the court obliges all parties to go through a full financial disclosure process before meaningful negotiations can take place. This is on the basis that you can’t fairly decide how to divide what is in the pot until you know what is in the pot!
This process usually requires each person to fill in a form separately (Form E or the mediation equivalent) and produce supporting documents for the other party to inspect and keep copies of. The information from both parties is then written up into an Open Financial Summary by the mediator.
What does legal privilege mean?
When we say something is legally privileged it means that you cannot produce it as evidence in court unless with the permission of all affected parties.
In mediation, with certain exceptions, everything is legally privileged. This is important because if means that you are safe to explore ideas in mediation without the worry that something you said could later be used against you in court if you can’t come to an agreement.
Where meaningful agreements in mediation are made these can be easily converted into legally binding form, usually with the help of a solicitor.
Are there exceptions to confidentiality in mediation?
Yes, we are very careful to ensure clients are clear about what we can and cannot keep confidential in mediation. Before you attend your Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) you will be provided with a summary of the exceptions to confidentiality. When you attend the MIAM we will run through this with you again in more detail and ask you sign a Confidentiality Agreement, which includes information about exceptions. You can read this in full here.