Family mediation is a firmly established strand of family law, we work alongside solicitors and the family courts to assist people, who have separated and / or want to divorce to reach their own settlements. Often people will have had an initial consultation with their solicitor prior to coming to mediation, if they are divorcing decree nisi may have been applied for or obtained.
After a successful mediation a solicitor can be consulted again to carry out any necessary legal work. This could be a court order to confirm the agreed children’s arrangements or to change the name on a property title / mortgage. If divorcing, they can draft the orders and apply for decree absolute.
Stages in the Process
Family mediation follows several distinct stages following initial discussions and referral:
1. Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
This will be your first face to face meeting with the mediator and takes place without the other party being present. The main purpose of the meeting is to explain to you how mediation works and decide whether mediation is suitable in your circumstances. We will also look at what has happened and what you would like to achieve, as well as your issues and concerns. The cost of mediation is considered and we will assess your eligibility for legal aid if you require this. A MIAM generally takes about 45 minutes. This can also be conducted by Skype should this be necessary, you require this and are paying privately.
If both you and the mediator decide mediation is suitable then we will look at how best the other party can be brought into the process and invited to their individual MIAM. Depending on the circumstances this could be a phone call / email from us or a formal written invitation.
If it is decided that mediation is not suitable, then we can issue you with Forms C100 or Form A if you require these. (They contain a section for a mediator to fill out, that is now required by the Court should you decide to issue proceedings)
If after both the MIAM’s mediation is found to be suitable, it will be possible to move on to joint mediation meetings.
2. Joint Mediation Meetings
This is really the start of mediation proper and consists of a number of meetings with both parties and the mediator round a table negotiating a settlement (these are the only people that will be in the mediation room). The time can be used in different ways and there will be opportunities to speak one to one with the mediator if you need to. A session will typically last from 60-90 minutes. The number of meetings required will vary with the type and complexity of the case.
The meeting(s) will be managed by the mediator who will seek to maintain a safe, civil and worklike atmosphere. You can expect to spend time identifying and exploring the issues that you have not been able to agree on so far, as well as discussing options and proposals for doing things differently in the future.
If you are divorcing a formal financial disclosure process needs to be followed, which leads to the production of a draft financial summary named the Open Statement of Financial Information (similar to Form E that solicitors use), financial negotiations are then based on the content of this.
If agreement cannot be reached, one of the parties decides to withdraw from the process or the mediator decides to halt the process, then mediation will have come to an unsuccessful end. We will talk to you about your future options if this happens. The court forms can then be issued to you or your solicitor if necessary.
3. Summary and Final Documents
Assuming you have reached a mutually successful conclusion, the mediator with then draft the documents you need to record your agreements. These might be necessary to obtain legal advice and/or for a solicitor to implement a legal settlement.
If you are divorcing the Open Statement of Financial Information will be finalised at this stage and your agreements / plan for the future recorded in a formal Memorandum of Understanding. This will be used by a solicitor as the basis for drafting the consent order.
For other matters the successful outcome is typically recorded in a Mediation Summary. Copies of the documents are issued to each party at the conclusion of the mediation process.
This is a highly summarised description of what actually happens, please contact us for a free telephone consultation if you feel unsure about how mediation works or if you have any questions.
The majority (70-80%) of people who attend joint family mediation meetings are successful in reaching an agreement.