Family mediators are impartial and neutral. They do not take sides, make judgements or give advice. They have a very different and distinct role from that of a family solicitor.
The mediator is there to help your family make your own decisions about your family’s future. The mediator is there to support families through change and inevitable restructuring which many people find challenging and difficult to articulate, especially is highly emotive situations.
This is especially true when children are involved. Being able to co-parent effectively is hugely beneficial and diffusing issues before entrenchment can have a positive impact on children.
Mediation can help maintain important family relationships. Attending mediation is generally quicker than attending court and without the adversarial approach often adopted by invoking the court process, couples can use mediation to reinforce and strengthen effective communication in a safe and confidential environment.
We need to accept and recognise that there will be cases in which the parties are unable to reach an agreement. You, your former partner or the mediator may decide to end the mediation process if progress is not being made or an impasse has been reached. If this happens, the mediator will discuss with you alternative options, such as the collaborative process, arbitration or a round table process where you attend face to face meetings with your lawyers present, or they will sign court forms to enable parties to bring court applications. It is worth remembering, that within alternative dispute resolution, you are in control, by moving it to a court process you are essentially losing that control as decisions will be made by a Judge.
In some situations mediation is not appropriate and these include but are not limited to:
Mediation won’t be for everyone, but it should be considered by everyone as part of an exercise to assess which of the variety of options is most appropriate for your individual circumstances. Parties that have gone through the process all highlight that being in control of the issues, the discussion and learning how to creatively resolve disputes in a safe, neutral, confidential environment has proven immensely beneficially in their relationship going forward and this is especially true where children are involved.
The whole process is very much designed to be taken at both parties own pace, so there are no specific timeframes and it very much depends on the number of issues brought into mediation and how each party are able to communicate with one another. As a general rule of thumb however, typically for a case involving finances and children, the majority of couples come to an agreement after 3-4 sessions.
Charges differ from firm to firm, but here at Kerseys, we typically charge a fixed fee for each mediation session of £265.00 plus VAT. The cost is usually shared between the parties and paid in advance of the session. Each session usually lasts no longer than 90 minutes.
There is additional costs associated with mediation such as the drafting of specific documents. In the case of financial matters these include an Open Financial Statement and Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) or in the case of children matters, the drafting of a Parenting Plan. Costs of such preparation will be discussed at the outset and will be shared between the parties.
Mediators are neutral and impartial meaning they do not take sides and nor can they give specific legal advice though they can explain generic legal terms such as the divorce or children court process. Whilst it is a matter for the individual, people often instruct a family lawyer first for tailored advice and to understand their rights and obligations before referral is made to a mediator.
When considering a lawyer to instruct reference should be made as to whether they themselves are mediators and a member of Resolution – these are good indicators to how the lawyer will approach a case. Having a pragmatic, balanced solicitor who sees the advantage of taking a non-adversarial approach can greatly increase the chances of obtaining a resolution without the need to revert the matter to court and will also ensure any referral to mediation to assist in the process is seen by the client as a natural progression of the case. It is necessary to keep in mind that an agreement made in mediation is not legally binding so if you want to make it legally binding in law, you will need to assistance of a solicitor.
Remember, mediation is all about working with your former partner and the mediator to try to explore ways of finding an agreement that both you and your former partner can accept. In children cases for example your child or children’s needs will be at the centre of all discussions and their welfare put at the heart of any agreement reached. To benefit fully from each session, you should put together an agreed agenda which lists the topics you want to cover. Ideally the agenda should be agreed beforehand. Having this structure greatly assists the process and keeps discussions focused and very importantly, parties can see progression is being made as each topic area is worked through and agreement reached.
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