Mediation is a recommended service if you are going through a divorce or separation before you attend court.
You will attend a meeting, with or without your ex-partner to make arrangements for your finances and dependencies post-separation.
It is technically an optional step in the separation process but often at least one initial meeting is compulsory unless you are exempt, for example, if there is a risk to the safety of you or your child.
Family mediation meaning
The reason why family mediation is looked upon so favourably by both the courts and legal councillors alike is that you can come to solutions that are practical for your whole family without spending so much time in and out of court. This makes your separation much easier and more time and cost effective for all parties involved.
Going to court is expensive. Often, it can take months to reach conclusions and during this time both parties can accumulate large legal bills. On top of this, going to court can be an upsetting and distressing time, sometimes leading to irreparable damage within families.
Mediation is there to offer you the time and space to work through sensitive topics in a non-hostile non-confrontational manner and to reduce the impact of your separation on you and your children.
What happens in mediation?
In mediation you are encouraged to be honest and open and talk through your problems to find practical solutions that work best for the whole family – especially where children are concerned.
Family law mediation is not the same as professional relationship counselling. Your mediator will not try to convince you and your partner to get back together or avoid separation.
Instead, mediation is an impartial service that is aimed at reaching amicable resolutions to your specific circumstances regarding your finances, assets and other responsibilities including care.
The mediation process for family law works by attending an initial meeting to lay out all relevant information about both parties and highlight how mediation can be of a benefit to you and if you are suitable for it.
With mediation the first meeting is called the MIAM – mediation information and assessment meeting. As stated above, attending a MIAM is compulsory unless you are exempt.
It is in this meeting where you can decide whether or not to move forward with mediation. If you decide not to carry on with mediation, or if you are exempt from it, then you will either need to acquire a MIAM certificate to state that you attended or a MIAM exemption certificate.
The child mediation process is slightly different and you may need to attend a child inclusive mediator if you want your child to attend mediation sessions with you.
Once you have finished mediation, you will receive a mediation agreement that contains all the information that you agreed upon. This agreement can then be made legal via a consent order and approved by the courts.
Parental mediation is the most common form of mediation where a child is involved. This is because most parents do not want their child to be present for all mediation settings whilst they work through intense family problems such as finances. Mediation between parents is often the best way to go about the process if you have young children.
After mediation, it is likely that you and your ex-partner will have a more civil relationship. This can also be beneficial if you have children as it means there will be less animosity between parties and less disruption and discomfort in their everyday life.
Child custody mediation
Child custody mediation can either involve the child directly or not at all. Some parents like their child to have a say in their separation in a non-confrontational setting in case there is anything that they want to get off their chest.
If you are wondering, ‘how does mediation work in child custody?’ then do not worry. What happens in mediation for child custody is the same as what happens in any other form of family law mediation.
What to expect at mediation for custody will be just like any other session. This is because your mediator will encourage you to look at your situation impartially and with the best interests of your child in mind.
It is crucial to take emotion out of your decision making and be respectful of your child’s feelings and their future rather than trying to spite your ex-partner.
Is a mediation agreement legally binding?
An agreement reached through mediation is not legally binding. However, following mediation, a court order can be issued to turn a mediation agreement into a legally binding consent order.
You should always seek legal advice on any agreement reached in mediation before it is made official through a consent order. Your mediator, even if they hold any qualifications in law, is not there to give you legal advice; they are there to be an impartial third party.
How long does it take for mediation?
There is no set timeframe for mediation to be completed within. Mediation can last for as long as it is needed and remains beneficial for all parties involved.
Each session should last for approximately 1-2 hours following the initial MIAM meeting. You might only need one session; you might need more.
You should not feel rushed to come to an early, forced conclusion and should instead ensure that you are thoroughly working through all relevant issues to come to a harmonious resolution.
Do you have to go through mediation before court?
Usually, the MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) is compulsory and it is there where you can decide whether or not to proceed further via mediation before attending court.
Attending mediation is looked on favourably by the courts and can save you time, money, and emotional discomfort in the long run.
There are also personal circumstances where you will be exempt from mediation and the MIAM, for example if it is not deemed safe for you to enter mediation with your partner.
Can I skip mediation and go straight to court?
In circumstances where there is the potential to prevent an emergency, mediation and the MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) can be skipped and you can instead proceed straight to court.
Where there is not the potential for an emergency, we advise that you attend mediation even if you feel like it might not be for you.
You may find that it is beneficial to clear the air in an impartial, non-confrontational environment. Reaching pre-agreements on complicated subjects like finance can also substantially reduce the time you will need to be in court for.
What happens if the other party does not attend mediation?
Mediation is voluntary so there is nothing forcing the other party to attend.
It is however worthwhile bearing in mind, if the courts intervention is needed a mediator will be required to advise the court as to the outcome of any mediation. Failure to attend mediation could therefore be to your detriment. Likewise, if you attend and the other party refuses to, for no genuine reason, the courts may look more favourably on you.
If you do not know where your partner is and you cannot contact them to ask them to attend mediation then you may be exempt.
How much is mediation?
The cost of mediation can vary depending on your location and who you decide to select as your mediator.
Your MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) will cost less than other mediation sessions which will then usually be priced per hour or per session. The average per person cost of three mediation sessions works out at £480.
You may however be eligible for Legal Aid which can contribute towards the cost of mediation.
Who can attend a mediation?
It is expected that both parents of the child will attend mediation. Other family members, if they have a relevant stake in the outcome of the mediation may also be able to attend.
If you want your child to attend mediation with you then you should find a child inclusive mediator.
Sometimes mediation can be intimidating for people to attend on their own, so your mediator may allow you to bring a supportive family member or friend with you.
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