How mediation allows separating families to shape their own destiny
When any marriage, civil partnership or relationship breaks down irretrievably, there are inevitably a lot of things to sort out - big questions such as what happens to the property, finances, debts and pensions on separation or divorce.
If there are children, then the couple will need to decide on things like where the children will live, when they’ll spend time with the other parent, what arrangements to make for their education and welfare, and how to manage times like Christmas, birthdays and school holidays. Agreeing workable solutions to these issues that they can both sign up to is extremely important. If these things are handled badly, then often problems can lie ahead.
Since April 2011, there has been a requirement that before proceedings can be issued in the Family Court, both parties must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) in order to explore the possibility of resolving sticking points between them, by working through them with a trained mediator, rather than going to court.
How mediation works
Firstly, mediation isn’t designed to sort out relationship issues, it isn’t marriage guidance counselling by another name. Instead, it’s a process that is designed to help both parties address the issues that they need to agree upon, enabling them to find ways to resolve them, so that ultimately each of them can move on in their lives.
Mediators are impartial, and their role is to help create a meaningful dialogue between both parties so that discussions can be had together. Many are solicitors or legal advisers. All have been trained in how to facilitate communication between people who can often be finding it difficult to come to terms with the breakdown of their relationship. Mediation provides the space and the opportunity for them to discuss matters openly with their former partner.
The desired outcome of mediation is that both parties put their relationship difficulties aside and hammer out a solution which suits them both to any areas in dispute, be it financial arrangements or practical arrangements for the children.
During a series of sessions with the mediator (usually 3-4), both parties are supported in their efforts to reach an agreement on key issues. If this can be achieved, then a “Memorandum of Understanding” can be drawn up and used to prepare a Consent Order which formalises important matters, such as the division of their marital assets and arrangements for the children.
The great thing about mediation is that it gives both parties control over the decision-making process, and an opportunity to decide issues for themselves, rather than these being imposed on them by a court. However, it can only work if both parties agree to co-operate. If this can’t be achieved, then they may need to consider court proceedings.
The court process
In contrast, by choosing the court route, couples are likely to be caught up in a more confrontational process which can be long and drawn out and often costly, both emotionally and financially. Plus, the outcome is that a complete stranger, the Judge, decides and imposes solutions on a family that neither side may be entirely happy with.
How we can help
We can provide the advice, guidance and support you need if you are separating or divorcing. Our Chartered Legal Executive Advocate, Sarah Canfield, is a fully trained All Issues Family Mediator who takes a holistic approach to family and childcare issues, ensuring the best outcome for those involved.
She has been undertaking mediation regularly in family disputes since 2012 and is a member of Resolution and the Family Mediation Council. To find out more, call Sarah on 0203 871 0116 or complete our mediation referral form