A guide to family mediation

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is an effective alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in which an impartial, professionally trained mediator helps families to reach decisions that need to be made when a relationship breaks down.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that helps you and your ex-partner to identify possible solutions. The aim is for agreements to be reached amicably outside of court and then be made legally binding with help of your solicitor.

Who is family mediation for?

Family mediation helps couples going through a separation to reach agreements about their future. It is often used when families are unable to agree on a way forward themselves.

Family mediation typically helps couples to resolve disputes concerning their finances and the arrangements for the care of their children. Through mediation couples can reach mutually agreed arrangements in a cost-effective and efficient way, while minimising acrimony and seeking to maintain a constructive relationship going forward.

How does family mediation work?

In the first instance, a mediator will meet with each party individually so they can explain their point of view without their ex-partner present. This is an opportunity to discuss any concerns you have, and what you want to resolve and achieve.

These initial meetings help you to build rapport with the mediator and prepare for the joint sessions. They also enable the mediator to assess whether it is safe and appropriate to mediate.

If everyone agrees the mediation can then move forward to joint sessions in a way which suits you both, be that face to face, via video or separately with the mediator ‘shuttling’ between you.

Communication is key and the mediator will encourage open and honest discussions, whilst ensuring that everyone is given equal opportunity to set the agenda, to speak, and be listened to.

Key benefits of family mediation

It is conducted by a neutral third party – the mediator

Their job is to facilitate the discussions, help the parties explore all the options and signpost them where appropriate to sources of professional help, such as legal or financial advice or therapeutic input. Having a third party to facilitate discussions is also often helpful for the parties in keeping lines of communication open at a time when they are usually in conflict. Most people wish to separate amicably, and mediation can be a more constructive route to achieving this.

Both parties are accountable for their decisions

The mediator is not responsible for making the decisions and they cannot force an outcome on the parties like a Judge can. The benefit of this is that the agreements reached are mutual and made through the cooperation and commitment of both parties, and as such are more likely to be kept to.

Family mediation can save the parties money

Often mediation is cheaper than litigation. It is very important to take legal advice at the end of the process to ensure what you have agreed is made legally binding. The parties can limit their legal costs by focussing on reaching an agreement during the mediation process. This allows them to preserve monies that may have been spent on legal fees for the benefit of the family and their future.

It is confidential

Discussions during mediation are on a ‘without prejudice’. This means if mediation is not successful what has been said cannot be repeated in Court proceedings. As a result, the parties can feel free to have a completely open and frank discussion about potential settlement options and not fear, as many people do in negotiations, that they need to keep their cards close to their chest.

Mediation is flexible

The parties can deal with multiple issues during family mediation whether they are to do with finances, children or isolated one-off issues, whereas in court they may need to make numerous applications to do so.

Example scenarios where family mediation could help you reach an agreement:

  • Should we sell the family home?
  • Where will we live post-divorce?
  • How do we agree maintenance?
  • Do we need to split our pensions?
  • How will we pay our debts?
  • How will we communicate as parents?
  • How will we fund and decide on clubs and extracurricular activities?
  • Where will we send the children to school?
  • Will we have the children vaccinated?
  • How will we introduce new partners to our children?
  • How do we agree medical treatments for our children?
  • When and where can we take the children on holiday?
  • What will happen on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas?

When is mediation not appropriate?

Mediation is not appropriate where there is evidence of domestic abuse, a power imbalance or significant welfare/child protection issues that are raised by one or both parties at the initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, (MIAM).

One of the key tasks of the mediator at the MIAM is to carry out a safeguarding screening enquiry with each party to consider if it is safe and appropriate to mediate. If the mediator does not consider it safe and appropriate, mediation will not take place.

Useful resources

Stowe Support – Mediation 

Resolving Child Arrangements Client Guide

Get in touch

For more information about family mediation or divorce please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry