What is family mediation?
This week is National Family Mediation Week, raising awareness of mediation as a way to resolve family disputes without the need for court action.
Since the introduction of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM) many questions have been raised as to whether solicitors are properly encouraging the use of mediation.
At Trethowans, whilst we accept that mediation may not be right for everyone, there are many benefits and it should always be considered as a way to resolve a family dispute before simply proceeding to court. We ensure we provide our clients with the information to make an informed decision about attending mediation.
So what is mediation?
Mediation is one way of resolving disputes which may arise on the breakdown of a relationship and is an alternative to going to court. Family mediation can be used to resolve a wide range of family problems, to include contact disputes (relation to children, grandchildren or step-children) or financial disagreements.
How does it work?
A qualified family mediator will meet you in a safe and neutral environment so that you both feel able to explain your concerns and needs to the other. The role of the mediator is an impartial one. This means that they cannot provide either party with advice, only information. The aim of the mediator is to facilitate a settlement by assisting you to communicate with each other. The mediator does not make decisions, tell you what to do or impose a settlement. Instead, the mediator helps you both work through options and reality check your proposals. The mediator is also there to ensure that there is not a power imbalance in the negotiations.
What are the benefits?
- If successful, you can improve your communication and increase your chances of long-term cooperation which is essential where there are children;
- The mediator controls the process and you retain control of the decisions made;
- More cost-effective and quicker then going to court;
- A flexible process that can be used to settle a variety of disputes;
- Can help to reduce tension and misunderstandings between you;
- Can be used whether or not you have seen a solicitor and proceedings have begun.
Is it confidential?
The mediator will not pass information on unless everyone agrees information can be disclosed. However, if it appears that someone has been seriously hurt, or is at risk, the mediator may alert the Police or Social Services.
What is said in mediation cannot be used in later court proceedings if mediation is unsuccessful. This does not apply to factual information given during the mediation process, such as details of income and property. It would, however, cover negotiations and offers of settlement. This is to encourage you to feel comfortable exploring lots of different options without fear of it later being used against you.
Matters which are agreed at mediation are usually written down and signed by you both and the mediator. This memorandum of understanding is not legally binding and cannot be enforced in court unless you decide to make it a legal contract or court order.
How long does it take?
Mediation will take on average between 4 and 6 sessions. Each session will last around an hour and a half. The process, however, is flexible and the pace and length of the session will be determined by you and the number of issues in dispute.
At Trethowans Solicitors, we have specialist family mediators, spread across our offices in Salisbury, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Winchester, all of whom are members of Resolution. If you would like to find out more about our family mediation services, contact us today on 0800 2800 421.
© Kimberley Davies – Partner & Family Mediator Bournemouth