Family Mediation Week (22–26 January 2024) is an opportunity to raise awareness of the role Mediation can play in family disputes. The annual event takes place at the start of the year and is an initiative of the Family Mediation Council (FMC).
Mediation offers many benefits to separating couples. It can help ex-partners agree on arrangements for their children, property and finances in a more cost-effective, timely and less stressful manner than going through the courts.
To mark this year’s event, our Head of Family Law and accredited Family Mediator, Paul Wilson, considers some of the key advantages of Mediation as a way of resolving practical family arrangements following separation.
What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that involves an independent, professionally trained third party helping couples reach an agreement on the various arrangements arising from the breakdown of their relationship.
Since April 2014, attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) was made a legal requirement to see whether Mediation is an appropriate method for reaching an agreement on children or financial issues.
What issues can Mediation help decide?
Mediation can be tailored to a couple’s specific needs and includes discussions relevant to an individual’s particular requirements.
Family Mediation for separating couples can most commonly help with arrangements for:
- Children. Mediation can help divorcing couples decide where their children will live, how often each parent will see them, when and what forms of contact take place, and work out what happens during school holidays and on special occasions, such as birthdays.
- Finances. It can be difficult to disentangle a couple’s finances, property, savings and pensions upon divorce or separation. Family Mediation can help separating couples agree on ‘who gets what’ and reach an agreement that both parties consider ‘fair’.
- Child maintenance. An impartial Mediator can help ex-partners agree on how much child maintenance to pay and how to pay it.
- Personal possessions. Disagreements can quickly arise when couples are faced with the prospect of dividing up the contents of their home. Family Mediators can help ex-partners reach an amicable conclusion about personal effects, household goods, and even family pets.
- Debts. Mediation can help couples agree on liability for any debts arising out of a marriage or civil partnership.
What are the benefits of Family Mediation for separating couples?
Family Mediation offers numerous benefits over court proceedings in family matters. Litigation can be time-consuming, expensive, and hugely stressful for everyone involved.
Some of the main advantages of Family Mediation include:
- Cost. Mediation is one of the most cost-effective ways for couples to come to an agreement about the various practical arrangements that need to be made when they are separating. Although it is still advisable for both parties to take legal advice from an experienced Family lawyer, the legal fees incurred will be substantially lower than if a couple had to resort to litigation.
- Speed. Mediation is a much faster process than having to go to court. In general, most Family Law matters take three and six months to be resolved through Mediation, while it can take up to two years for a case to be heard by the courts.
- Reduces conflict. While court proceedings tend to pit one party against another, Mediation reduces conflict by focusing on working together to come to an agreement.
- Encourages collaboration. An independent Mediator does not take sides. Instead, a trained Family specialist will listen to each party, and encourage them to listen to each other, to reach a consensus.
- Less stressful. Fighting an ex-partner in court can be traumatic and take a huge emotional toll on everyone involved. A Mediator will make all parties involved in the Mediation process as comfortable as possible, encouraging open discussions to focus on the issues at hand.
- Maintains open communication. Family Mediation in the UK is ‘without prejudice’. This means couples can discuss matters openly, make offers and explore different options without being legally bound to them. A Mediator plays a vital role in this process by making suggestions and challenging assumptions, ensuring the lines of communication remain open until you have a result.
- Retain control. The Mediation process ensures parties are responsible for reaching an agreement themselves rather than having a decision imposed on them by a third party, such as the court.
- Flexibility. Mediation is a bespoke process, and conversations can be tailored to a couple’s particular needs. Mediation sessions can take place in person, or remotely over Zoom, and appointments can be made to fit around existing commitments.
- Confidential. Discussions during Mediation are confidential and cannot be shared with anyone outside of the Mediation process.
- Outcomes. The aim of Mediation is for parties to reach an agreement together through open conversations, exploring different options and compromise. Making informed choices in this way rather than having a decision imposed on you means there is more chance of you being happy with the arrangements and increases the likelihood of the agreement being upheld.
Are agreements made in Mediation legally binding?
Agreements made during mediation are not legally binding. Once you and your partner have reached an agreement following Mediation, you should discuss the arrangements with an experienced Family Solicitor, who can apply to the court for a consent order to make the agreement enforceable legally.
Family Solicitors Near Me
At Bookers & Bolton, we appreciate that Family Law matters can be highly emotional and stressful for everyone involved.
Our Head of Family Law, Paul Wilson, has practised Family Law for over 30 years and is an accredited Family Mediator.
Paul can assist with all issues arising from family relationship breakdown, including holding MIAMs and conducting private Mediation.
He can work remotely and often meets clients online over Zoom, helping individuals and families with their legal matters in Hampshire and across the UK.
Regardless of the nature of your family dispute or the complexity of the matter, our specialist Family Law team is committed to finding the right solution.
We will advise you on your options and carefully guide you through the process, tailoring our advice to your needs and situation.
Bookers & Bolton’s experienced Family Solicitors advise on all divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, and separation matters, including:
- The divorce process.
- Financial matters.
- Child matters and arrangements.
For more information on how we can help, please contact Paul Wilson on 01420 558 295 or complete a free online enquiry, and we will be in touch.