Family mediation

Family Mediators help couples or other family members where relationships has broken down to reach joint decisions about one or more matters relating to children, finance and property.

  • Family Mediation is “a process in which those involved in family breakdown, whether or not they are a couple or other family members, employ an impartial third person to assist them to communicate better with one another and reach their own agreed and informed decisions concerning some or all of the decisions relating to separation, divorce, children, finance or property by negotiation”.
  • Mediators help couples or other family members to reach joint decisions about one or more matters relating to children, finance and property. One or two experienced and qualified mediators assist the process.
  • The focus of mediation is to help the participants resolve issues and to keep moving forward. The process focuses on the future, i.e. the concrete issues that needs to be resolved.
  • Communication between the couple can be improved with mediation so that they are able to build an amicable relationship and resolve problems, which may arise in the future between themselves.
  • Mediation enables couples to co-operate as parents for the betterment of their children.

What mediation is not

  • Mediation is not counselling, it does not deal with the conflicts, which led to the breakdown of the relationship or the emotional issues arising from it. However, in some instances we may be able to offer counselling ourselves.
  • Mediation may occasionally bring a couple closer together when communication between ex-partners improves, mediation however does not aim to do this.
  • Mediators do not provide legal advice; this is the role of participant’s legal advisors. However, mediators can give information on some legal or other relevant matters.
  • Mediators are impartial we do not take sides.

What are the benefits?

Family mediation:

  • gives you more say about what happens. In court a judge will make the decisions. With mediation you and the other party make the decisions.
  • is less stressful, with less conflict between you and your partner. If you have children it is less upsetting for them. It can help find ways for everyone involved to get on better in the future.
  • improves communication and helps you sort out your future.
  • agreements can be reviewed and changed if you both agree – e.g. if your situation changes, and as your children get older and have different needs.
  • is easier on your children when parents co-operate and helps them continue important family relationships.
  • is quicker, cheaper and provides a better way to sort out disagreements than long drawn-out court battles – helping you to get on with the rest of your life as quickly as possible.

Attending the Assessment Meeting or (MIAM) Mediation Information Assessment Meeting is the first step in the mediation process. The first step is to attend a meeting with one of our mediators so you can find out more about mediation and if it’s right for you. This is generally called a ‘Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) or ‘ Assessment meeting’. You can go with your ex-partner but see the mediator separately. Our mediators are trained to help you find other help and support services if you need them.

Mediation is often most effective when it takes place at an early stage, before the issues become big problems. It’s best to contact us as soon as you and your ex-partner have come to terms with the separation and need help sorting out arrangements. You don’t need to see a solicitor first but if you do they should tell you about mediation. Even if you’ve been separated for a while or if your case has already gone to court, mediation can help to resolve any dispute you may still have.

The law says that you must consider whether mediation can help you before you can take a case to court.

After the MIAM or assessment meeting, if you all agree to try mediation, you will need to attend mediation sessions (usually 75mins each session). The length and number of sessions will depend on your situation. When an agreement is reached, our mediator will writ it down in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ so that everyone is clear about what has been decided. Agreements made in mediation can be made legally binding by a court if both you and your ex-partner agree.

This is sometimes useful if arrangements are meant to run over a period of time, such as child maintenance payments, or if you want something a little more formal to help you both stick to your agreement.

If the situation changes and the arrangements aren’t working, you can go back to our mediator. If needed, you can agree to change the Memorandum of Understanding.
Family mediation works for most people. At the MIAM or assessment meeting our mediator will talk to you about whether mediation will work for you both and tell you about other options that could still avoid you having to go to court, for example collaborative law or solicitor negotiation.
The law says that you must consider whether mediation can help you before you can take a case to court. A judge can halt your case until this has happened. You will need to show the court that

1. a)  you have been to a MIAM or assessment meeting to find out about mediation, or

2. b)  you don’t need to do this because of special circumstances which are listed in section 11 of form C100.

Special circumstances include cases involving domestic violence or child abuse, which may not be right for mediation – our mediators can advise you on this at the MIAM or assessment meeting.

If you’re on a low income and able to get Legal Aid then the information meeting (the MIAM) and mediation sessions will be free. You may also get financial help to pay for legal advice in connection with mediation if you feel you need it. If one of you qualifies for Legal Aid but the other doesn’t, you will still both be able to have an assessment meeting and the first session of mediation for free. Even if neither of you can claim Legal Aid, you may still save money by trying mediation first, rather than going straight to a solicitor/lawyer. www.gov.uk/legalaid-eligibility-calculator.
See if you can get mediation for free with Legal Aid. Use the on line Legal Aid Check check-legal aid or call the Civil Legal Advice service on 0345 345 4345, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 8.00pm, Saturday 9.00am to 12.30pm.

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