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Insights // 20 January 2021

What is Family Mediation?

This week is Family Mediation Week - Tasha Bevan-Stewart and Louise Low, in our leading Family Law team, explain what mediation is and how it can help you.

Mediation is a popular and effective way of resolving family law disputes. This week, family lawyers across the country are aiming to promote and explain mediation further.

In a mediation session the neutral mediator helps both parties identify the issues that need to be addressed. This will often include sorting out the arrangements for any children and dealing with financial matters, but can also include any other issues that you feel can usefully be addressed.

Mediation is not counselling, but it often ensues after couples have engaged in counselling and decided their relationship has ended. Mediation is focused on managing practical arrangements – how should the divorce petition be worded, when should children move between homes and how to deal with your finances post-separation.

Mediation is a voluntary process and allows you to retain control over the decisions that will affect your life. Whilst the outcome itself is not binding, parties often take legal advice on the agreement reached and convert it quickly into a binding court order.

Mediation encourages couples to work together, despite their differences, in the interests of their children. Children often benefit from understanding that their parents are working together to sort things out between them.

Mediation is different from direct discussions, as you will be assisted by the mediator who has professional training. The mediator will help set agendas, guide and keep the discussions on track, as well as help you work through any obstacles in your discussions. The mediator can present options and give legal information. He or she cannot give the parties legal advice. The aim is to work through possible solutions and make informed choices.

How does mediation work?

Negotiations within mediation are private and without prejudice, meaning that they cannot be presented if any court proceedings were to ensue. This frees the parties up to negotiate more freely, and works best if there is transparency and trust.

Solicitors advising each party normally draft the agreements following a successful mediation. You have the opportunity to take legal advice at any stage in the process.

Mediation is flexible in timing and scope. Typically, mediation sessions will last approximately an hour and thirty minutes, but some people prefer longer or shorter sessions. The number of sessions required will depend on the number and complexity of the issues involved, but it is common for there to be between 3 - 5 sessions.

Due to the pandemic and the backlog of cases it has caused for courts, those engaged in litigation are currently experiencing delays in getting their hearings listed. This can be frustrating, especially where they are keen to avoid prolonging matters. By contrast, mediators are readily available in private practice. Mediation professionals have been working throughout the pandemic using online mediation to great success, to assist couples to move things forward.

If mediation is not successful, you can still explore other avenues for resolving the issues, including arbitration which is a recommended alternative to Court proceedings. You do have to explore mediation or a non-court alternative before lodging a Court application, except in limited circumstances. Even if you do proceed to arbitration or court, having engaged in mediation can help you narrow issues to be adjudicated, which can go on to save you costs and time.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Partner, Family Law

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Louise Low

Louise Low

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