- What Is Family Mediation?
- The Family Mediation Process
- What Are The Benfits Of Family Mediation?
- What Makes A Good Family Mediator?
- When Is Family Mediation Not Suitable?
- In What Ways Will A Family Mediator Support Me?
- Do both parties have to attend mediation at the same time?
- Can mediation proposals be made legally binding?
- How long does Family Mediation take?
- How Much Does Family Mediation Cost?
- What documents are produced in mediation and what are they all for?
- What is full financial disclosure?
- What does legal privilege mean?
- Are there exceptions to confidentiality in mediation?
- Mediation Session Key Points
What Is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation helps couples who are separating or getting a divorce to work through their issues in a more supportive, constructive, and less expensive way than going to court. A Family Mediator will help guide you and your family members through issues such as property, finance, arrangements for any children, and considerations for extended family in an impartial way, not taking sides or making judgments. Family Mediators are specialists in dealing with conflict. They will help you consider other options and make well-informed decisions. Family Mediation helps you find better solutions to all issues surrounding separation, divorce, and family dissolution in a constructive and supportive way. An impartial Family Mediator, with formal training and experience in dealing with conflict and emotional situations, will help you and your former partner work through topics such as property, finance, and childcare.
If you wish for Able Mediation to contact you or to book mediation sessions or a MIAM, please fill out either the Self-Referral Form or the Solicitor and Agency Referral Form, and we will get in touch with you shortly. We, at Able Mediation, are fully accredited Family Mediators with over 10 years of family mediation experience. We also work as Professional Practice Consultants, supporting and supervising trainee mediators and other practices, and we have experience in dealing with all issue cases, including difficult parenting disputes and high-value financial cases. You can find out more about us and who we are here.
We hold memberships with the Family Mediators Association and College of Mediators, organizations which make up the Family Mediation Council.
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The Family Mediation Process
MIAM (Initial Assessment)
End of Mediation
What Are The Benefits Of Family Mediation?
- Improved outcomes for children: Research clearly shows that cooperative parenting and low conflict improve outcomes for children. Family mediation supports parents in developing good relationships after separation.
- Reduced stress and conflict: The court process is inflexible and adversarial by nature, usually increasing stress and conflict. A family mediator will be flexible to your needs, helping reduce stress and improving communication between you to reduce conflict.
- It’s usually quicker than going to court: According to statistics from the National Audit Office, family mediation takes an average of 110 days, compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases. That is equivalent to a time saving of 10.5 months!
- You stay in control of the decisions: Court outcomes can be uncertain and sometimes feel arbitrary. On the other hand, a family mediator will help you find solutions that work for you and your family and explain how these can be made legally binding.
- It’s usually cheaper than going to court: The National Audit Report in 2012 found that the average cost per person for mediation was £675, whereas the average cost for cases going to court was £2,823. This represents an average saving of £2,148 per person.
- Mediation is confidential: The mediation process provides a safe, confidential space for you to address family issues and negotiate joint proposals. Meetings are held in a neutral venue.
What Makes A Good Family Mediator?
It is important to find a family mediator who is well-trained and in whom you can feel a sense of both professional confidence and personal trust.
The following lists those attributes we believe are of vital importance to making a good mediator:
- Accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC): Only FMC-accredited mediators can sign court forms. These mediators have gone through a casework-based accreditation process that demonstrates their understanding of the theories, principles, and skills of mediation. It also confirms that they have been trained by an organization recognized by the FMC, maintain membership with one of the FMC membership organizations, keep up to date through continuous professional development, and have insurance.
- Knowledgeable: Part of the family mediator’s role is to provide information to enable parties to make informed decisions. This includes information about children, their development, and their responses to conflict or family breakdown, as well as information about relevant law and legal processes.
- Skilled in conflict resolution: Mediators must have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively deal with conflict and difficult emotional situations that may arise in mediation.
Compassionate, patient, hopeful, and kind: When experiencing relationship breakdown and/or dealing with conflict related to significant aspects of our lives, many people go through an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing a wide range of emotions. Good mediators understand this and strive to practice with compassion, patience, hope, and kindness.
When Is Family Mediation Not Suitable?
Although it is a mandatory requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before applying to court, joint family mediation sessions are not. Below is a summary of factors and situations where mediation may or may not be suitable.
There is the best chance of success in mediation when both clients are:
- Motivated to resolve their issues.
- Prepared to listen to one another.
- Wish to be fair with one another.
- Able to keep the best interests of the children in mind.
- Able to negotiate.
Mediation could be more difficult or deemed unsuitable for the following reasons:
- Legal considerations – e.g., where there is an urgent need to apply to court to prevent a child from being abducted or in cases of disputes over secure tenancies where there is no hope of agreement because an agreement would render one party intentionally homeless.
- Poor mental or physical health.
- Significant emotional imbalance, for example, where one party has moved on while the other is in a state of significant distress at the end of the relationship.
- When there has been domestic violence that has left one party in fear of the other.
- When one or both parties will not provide full financial disclosure in a financial case.
In What Ways Will A Family Mediator Support Me?
Family mediators are facilitators and will support you in having difficult conversations. A family mediator will help you stay focused on the topics you have chosen to discuss during sessions, ensure that conversations are balanced, and challenge unhelpful or abusive behavior.
Family mediators can also provide valuable information on various matters related to divorce or separation, such as the law concerning children, divorce, and finances, legal processes, child development, and research about children and divorce. However, family mediators are not permitted to give advice as it would compromise their impartiality. If advice or additional support is needed, your family mediator will be able to direct you to other services.
Do Both Parties Have To Attend Mediation At The Same Time?
At your first meeting with a mediator, known as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), meetings usually involve individual sessions where each client meets the mediator separately. During this meeting, the best approach for the mediation process will be determined.
Once mediation is underway, the most common model is for both parties to meet together with the mediator in the same room. This approach allows for more meaningful dialogue, reducing conflict and promoting a better future relationship as co-parents, if applicable. This model is also faster and therefore more cost-effective, as discussions flow more smoothly.
However, if meeting in the same room is too uncomfortable or not possible, there are alternative mediation models that can be considered. For example, mediation can occur in the same venue but in separate rooms, with the mediator moving between the rooms. This model is known as shuttle mediation.
The mediation process is flexible, and there are other options to consider depending on the specifics of your case. If you or your mediator believe that a different model may be appropriate, involving a solicitor, financial advisor, or other relevant professional, this can be discussed and agreed upon between us.
Can Mediation Proposals Be Made Legally Binding?
Yes, joint proposals reached in mediation can be legally binding through various methods. The most common approach is to have mediation outcomes converted into consent orders or private agreements by a solicitor. These consent orders are then submitted to the court for official approval. Additionally, Parenting Plans can be signed as a way to confirm your commitment to abide by the agreements made, effectively creating a private agreement.
Your mediator will assist you in understanding the available options based on the specific details of your case.
How Long Does Family Mediation Take?
This is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on a great number of factors, including how many issues there are to deal with, how able you are to communicate constructively, how willing you are to look for solutions that are mutually beneficial, and how organized you are in terms of bringing the right things to sessions.
As a general guide, we estimate 1-2 sessions for mediations about children only, 3+ sessions for child-inclusive mediation, 4 sessions for mediations about property/finance only, and 5+ sessions for mediations dealing with children and property/finance issues.
Sessions can be close together or spaced out, depending on circumstances and preferences. For example, if you are discussing matters related to children, it is usually appropriate to have sessions reasonably close together to maintain the momentum of the process. However, when mediating regarding financial matters, it is sometimes necessary to have breaks of several weeks to allow you time to gather necessary information/documents.
How Much Does Family Mediation Cost?
Family mediation is charged at an hourly rate, so the costs depend on how many hours of mediation you have had and what outcome documents you require.
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What Documents Are Produced In Mediation And What Are They All For?
Mediators produce a number of different types of documents. The most common ones are:
- Open Financial Summary: This document summarizes the full financial disclosure of both parties. It includes background information, details about assets, debts, and liabilities, information about incomes and current expenditures, and includes a schedule of all documents seen in mediation. If you are applying for a consent order, you will need to submit this document to the court with your application to assist the judge in considering your proposals. Since this document is based on factual evidence, it is not legally privileged. Therefore, it can also be used as a basis for negotiations outside of mediation or in court proceedings, if mediation is not successful.
- Memorandum of Understanding: This document is produced at the end of mediation and outlines your proposals regarding your children and finances. Its purpose is to provide all the information your solicitor needs to draft a consent order or separation agreement or to assist you in implementing your proposals. The proposals in the Memorandum are confidential and legally privileged, but they are not legally binding until you convert them into a legal document. It is always advisable to seek independent legal advice before making any proposal legally binding.
- Parenting Plan: A parenting plan is a document written from your perspective. It outlines any agreements you have reached regarding arrangements for your children. Since it is a document that you both sign, it is not considered legally privileged and could be seen by the court if either party violates the agreements.
- Statement of Outcome: This document provides a concise record of the outcomes of mediation, shorter than a full Memorandum of Understanding. It is typically used to document children’s arrangements when a Parenting Plan is not desired or necessary. However, it can also be used to record financial or interim outcomes when appropriate. It is a legally privileged document.
What Is Full Financial Disclosure?
Full financial disclosure describes the process of both parties openly showing each other information about all their assets, debts, liabilities, income and expenses.
Whatever process you chose (mediation/solicitor negotiation/court), full financial disclosure will be a requirement as the court obliges all parties to go through a full financial disclosure process before meaningful negotiations can take place. This is on the basis that you can’t fairly decide how to divide what is in the pot until you know what is in the pot!
This process usually requires each person to fill in a form separately (Form E or the mediation equivalent) and produce supporting documents for the other party to inspect and keep copies of. The information from both parties is then written up into an Open Financial Summary by the mediator.
What Does Legal Privilege Mean?
When we say something is legally privileged, it means that you cannot use it as evidence in court unless all affected parties give their permission.
In mediation, with a few exceptions, everything is legally privileged. This is crucial because it allows you to freely discuss and explore ideas during mediation without the fear that your statements could be used against you in court if an agreement cannot be reached.
If substantial agreements are reached in mediation, they can be easily converted into legally binding form, typically with the assistance of a solicitor.
Are There Exceptions To Confidentiality In Mediation?
Yes, we are very careful to ensure that clients have a clear understanding of what can and cannot be kept confidential in mediation. Prior to attending your Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), you will receive a summary of the exceptions to confidentiality. During the MIAM, we will go through this information in more detail and ask you to sign a Confidentiality Agreement, which includes details about the exceptions. You can read this in full here.
Mediation Session Key Points
Family Mediation sessions are usually joint meetings. Mediation generally takes 1-6 meetings that last around 90 minutes, depending on whether the issues are related to children, finance, or both. The decisions made in mediation are made by you. The role of the mediator is to enable you to speak freely and negotiate decisions that you both accept.
Concerning Children and Finance: Where mediation concerns finance, you are expected to disclose all your financial facts, assets, income, and liabilities before arriving at settlement proposals. In the case of mediation about your children, you will, of course, be expected to prioritize their upbringing and every other aspect of their future above all else.
End of Mediation: At the conclusion of mediation, documentation is produced by the mediator setting out everything that has been decided, including finances and contact proposals. At any time during the process leading to these decisions, you are free to seek advice from a solicitor or specialist. Mediation proposals are not legally binding until endorsed by a court. Your solicitor can assist you with this.
You can view more in-depth information, including the stages of mediation, benefits of mediation, and frequently asked questions on our ‘About Family Mediation’ page.
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