What is mediation - and is it right for you?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution aimed at finding an agreement between the parties. While it is often used to settle disputes around financial matters, it can be used to discuss virtually any family issue (such as children, for example). It is a valuable mechanism in areas where a Court has no legal powers, such as the future home of a family pet on separation. Our family team can provide guidance about mediation and point you in the right direction if you think that mediation is right for you.
How does mediation work?
Mediation is conducted by an accredited Mediator who, before commencing the process, will have invited both parties to a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to ensure that the matter is suitable for mediation. The actual process can be as long or as short as both parties wish and either person is free to leave the process at any time if they feel that this forum is no longer suitable for their matter.
Before commencing mediation on financial issues, the Mediator or the parties’ solicitors (if there are solicitors involved) will have invited both parties to make full and frank financial disclosure of their assets and debts. Such disclosure is commonly made on a Form E (which is a standard form document in matrimonial proceedings). This is so that each person can make an informed financial decision.
Mediators are procedurally debarred from giving either person attending mediation legal advice. Their role is to promote an agreement if possible or, in the alternative, clarify areas of disagreement. Neither party is bound by things said during the mediation process; the discussion is treated as being entirely private and ‘without prejudice’ (meaning that the substance of the discussion may not be disclosed in any Court proceedings). However, many do find mediation to be a less expensive and certainly less confrontational way of resolving their differences.
The outcome of mediation, whether successful or unsuccessful, will be recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). If the MOU embodies an agreement by which the parties intend to be legally bound, the Mediator will pass on the Memorandum to the solicitors instructed by the parties in order that the MOU may then be transformed into a draft Consent Order. A draft Consent Order (once its contents are agreed) is sent to the Family Court for the approval of a Judge. This approval has the legal effect of turning a Consent Order into a legally enforceable agreement, whereby both parties have remedies should the other person default.
The Family Mediation Council is made up of six member organisations who offer family mediation. Another port of call is Relate. Our family team would be happy to help you decide whether mediation is the right option for you and, if so, how to proceed.