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How Does Family Mediation Work?
Even though deciding to separate can be a difficult decision in itself, sorting out all the arrangements that follow can also be overwhelming. When a couple decides to part ways, it not only affects them but also the household. Many questions start flying around: who will the children be living with? Will it be shared arrangements? What about the joint bank account? Or the savings? Or the debts? Or the car?
This is where the option of mediation comes in. Not to be confused with counselling, mediation enables the parties to discuss and resolve any family matters like finances or child arrangements in light of a separation.
Mediation is a tool that helps people find practical solutions during a difficult time with the help of a third party. The couple will be assisted by a trained mediator, who will help reach an agreement without the need to go to court. It can also be used by couples who have been separated for a while to make changes to an existing arrangement.
The aim is for both parties to discuss any issues arising from the separation and agree on a way forward. A written agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding will then be drafted. This written agreement can then be sent to court to be made legally binding.
Meetings are completely confidential and only take place if both parties agree to attend.
What are the benefits of family mediation?
By choosing to go to mediation, both parties are in control of the outcome. Once a case goes to court, the judge has complete control over the arrangement and will impose a result. It is often a costly and time-consuming process which could result in both parties not being content with the outcome.
The benefits of mediation:
Power: The final decision is in the hands of both parties. The mediator acts as a neutral third party helping you to find a suitable solution. Ultimately, you both have the final say.
Less formal: Mediation takes place in a neutral environment where both parties are able to express their wishes concerning the future, therefore reducing the chance of conflict. As it is a less confrontational process than taking a battle to court, it is also less traumatic for any children involved.
Flexible arrangement: The final agreement can be reviewed by both parties if the situation changes, especially when the children get older and have different needs.
Quicker and cheaper: the process is a lot quicker and cheaper than going through the court system.
The law requires it: It is now a requirement to consider mediation before submitting an application to the court for children and financial issues (unless special circumstances apply).
What is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting?
The first step to mediation is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting also called a MIAM. During this meeting, a mediator will see both parties together or separately to discuss the separation, the issues at hand and assess whether the case is suitable for mediation or if an application to court should be made directly. It is important to note that the mediator will only refuse to mediate in specific circumstances, for example, cases involving domestic violence or child abuse.
Once the initial assessment has taken place and mediation is deemed suitable for the situation, further meetings will be arranged to start the process.
Mediation can help people to reach solutions more quickly and cheaply. Some research even shows that couples who use mediation are less likely to need to return to the legal system to sort out ongoing issues. It seems, therefore, that family mediation is at least worthy of consideration.
For more information on mediation do not hesitate to contact our trained mediator, Andrew Robinson.