Divorce mediation – the benefits and how it works

When most people think of divorce and separation, they picture arguments, high emotions, and a potentially ruined relationship with their former partner. The reality is that many separations can be managed in an environment that seeks to reduce conflict between you and your partner and promotes a healthy resolution to any disputes between you.

The Family Mediation Council is running Family Mediation Week from the 16th to the 20th January, and seeks to raise awareness of the option of mediation to separating couples.

Getting started with divorce mediation

Before an application to the court is made, you would in any event be required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is where you meet with a mediator to discuss how the process works and whether you and the mediator feel that your case is suitable to be addressed by mediation – the mediator will also meet with your former partner in a separate assessment meeting and if everyone wants to proceed, a full mediation session would be arranged.

The benefits of mediation in a divorce

Mediation is a preferred method for many reasons, as whilst it avoids conflict, it could also avoid the costs of possible court proceedings and assist in resolving matters in a timely way. If the court are involved you are only able to move at the speed with which the court list hearings for you. In mediation, you can discuss wider issues and proceed at a time that suits you.  Court proceedings can take up to two years or more to finalise, which can hold you and your partner back from moving forward with your lives.

Where appropriate, mediation can be a successful alternative. You would usually both sit with a mediator, who is impartial and unbiased to either side. They would provide an opportunity for you both to set out your views and concerns regarding the matters in dispute between you. This could include disagreement over how property and finances are to be divided, deciding on future child arrangements, and/or any other matters that you need to agree between you.

Your mediator will help you and your partner have the space to put forward your position and to be heard by each other and help you to see the way forward. They can help guide you to a compromised arrangement that you are both content with. However, mediators cannot provide legal advice to either of you, meaning it may still be appropriate to seek independent advice ahead of, or during, your mediation sessions.

You should be aware that if necessary or appropriate, you can mediate whilst sitting in separate rooms to each other. This is something that would be discussed with your mediator at the assessment meeting.

The benefit of mediation is that it is also entirely voluntary, meaning that you can choose to take necessary breaks, and you can choose how many (and when) your sessions take place. Either party can end mediation at any time, but they should bear in mind that this could lead to costs being incurred for both the mediation as well as further legal proceedings.

The outcome of mediation is not legally binding, but both parties can sign up to a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ that is prepared by the mediator at the end of the mediation, and records the agreements reached during mediation. Your solicitor can then create and submit the agreement to the court by way of Consent Order, which will give legal effect to what has been agreed.

Catherine Hancock, Head of our Family Department is a qualified mediator and Hybrid Mediator, and will be available to discuss the options of mediation with you. Initial enquiries are without charge, and we can then offer a fixed fee for an initial meeting with you (by zoom or in person).

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