A better way to divorce or separate

Family mediation is one of the most common alternative forms of dispute resolution for separating couples.

Multi-coloured Hot Air Balloon illustration Family mediation.

There are many issues that will need to be resolved once the difficult decision to separate has been taken. How will we arrange things for the children? What about the finances? What will we do about the family home? Who is going to apply for divorce?

Often the thought of an acrimonious battle is more than a couple can take at such a difficult time. However, there are alternatives to the traditional court process, which can be used to settle differences.

Family mediation

Family mediation is one of the most common alternative forms of dispute resolution for separating couples; in fact you now cannot take a case to court unless you have first explored whether mediation could assist. Even if the court process has been commenced or solicitors instructed to negotiate on your behalf, mediation can still be used as an effective tool to narrow the issues between you.

A family mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to help a couple resolve issues surrounding their separation, such as finances and the children. Mediation can also assist grandparents and other family members who may be involved closely with the family.

There is usually an initial one to one meeting to assess suitability for mediation and then the mediator will arrange a joint session with both clients. Each session should be tailored to suit the particular issues of each couple – accordingly, the number of mediation sessions necessary will depend on the volume and complexity of the issues being discussed.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • Mediation gives the parties the power to address issues between themselves and make their own solutions for dealing with matters rather than having a decision ordered by the court.
  • Mediation provides a controlled and managed environment to discuss difficult issues.
  • All aspects of separation can be covered in mediation – finances, children and the divorce, rather than potentially having separate court proceedings for each issue.
  • By communicating with each other directly, mediation can help people to move on from the relationship with dignity and look ahead to the future, rather than dwelling too heavily on the past.
  • Mediation is child-focused and the welfare of the children is put at the forefront of any discussions.
  • Mediation is generally less expensive as the mediator’s hourly rate will be split between the clients.
  • Mediation is often quicker than negotiations through solicitors or the court process. Provided all parties are available, and the information needed to progress is gathered efficiently, sessions can take place at a much swifter pace if so desired.

Most mediators will recommend that clients also retain the services of a solicitor in the background. Once both parties are content with the proposals the mediator will prepare a clear summary for them called a Memorandum of Understanding. The mediator will also provide a summary of the financial information (an Open Financial Statement) if the finances have been discussed. The parties can then review with the paperwork with their solicitors. After legal advice has been received and if both parties are still happy with the proposals, the solicitors will convert the summary into a legally binding document and oversee any necessary implementation.

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only and reflection the position at time of posting. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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