Mediation is a process by which couples can negotiate about future arrangements for children or negotiate reaching a financial settlement with the assistance of a neutral third party. A mediator does not give legal advice and they do not tell the parties what they should do but they can very helpful in encouraging the parties to reach an agreement in an amicable way.
We often recommend that parties attempt mediation prior to going down the route of a court application. It is compulsory for parties to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to submitting an application to the court for either an application under the Children Act 1989 or the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. There is no requirement for the parties to continue with mediation if they do not feel it beneficial or likely successful.
There are several advantages to attending mediation. This includes giving both parties more control over the decisions they make rather than placing power into the hands of the court. It is a cheaper and often less stressful way of dealing with sensitive matters. It is a less hostile route for parties to take which can allow parties to keep communication flexible and amicable.
Agreements reached at mediation are not legally binding on parties however in some situations it can be appropriate to have that agreement put into a consent order.
The process usually begins with each party having a telephone call with the mediator to discover what each party wishes to take from the mediation process. The mediator will consider whether mediation is suitable for the parties.
Following the initial call, the mediator may have an initial meeting with each party, often the MIAM. They discuss the background of the case and will explain the mediation process in more detail. The content is confidential and not discussed with the other party. If deemed suitable then the mediator will arrange a joint meeting between the parties. This meeting is usually used to deal with any interim or urgent matters and then to look at what each party wants to look at in future meetings. The following meetings will then revolve around the issues each party wishes to resolve.
Mediators are currently conducting mediation sessions remotely using video platforms and much of the preparation work can be done via telephone or email.
As solicitors we are often consulted by our clients throughout the course of mediation, to take legal advice at many stages. We can advise on the fairness and legality of the agreements reached and then ultimately help clients put an agreement into a legally binding document if necessary.
If you would like advice on any family matters including whether mediation might be suitable for your situation please contact the family team on 01243790532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.