Family Mediation Week is 11th – 15th January and in aid of this we have written a series of short Q&As which explain mediation and how it can help you and your family if you are going through a separation or a divorce.
The first article explores and explains mediation as a whole.
What is mediation?
It’s a discussion: it’s not designed to get you back together as a couple: it’s designed to get you talking to try and agree a way forward together.
It’s something you do without a lawyer present, but it’s usually wise to speak to a lawyer first so that you can be sure you understand the issues, and have a clear idea of what ideally you would like to achieve.
I don’t think I can meet with my partner.
You may not have to: sometimes it is better to use “shuttle mediation” where you remain in separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between you. If your partner poses a risk then of course it would not be appropriate to meet.
What does the mediator do?
The mediator is not there to advise or to take sides: he or she is there to enable you to have a constructive discussion and work through the issues in a sensible way. The mediator will take notes, and summarise your discussions in a document. You can then take that back to your solicitor to get advice. However, you would expect a mediator to prevent one of you trying to pressurise the other, or talk over the other.
Is it binding?
No: you reach an “understanding”, as opposed to an “agreement”. You can then discuss that with your solicitor. On that basis you have nothing to lose: if it works then that is great; if not then at least you’ve tried
Is it confidential?
Yes. It is also “privileged”, which means that nothing you say in mediation can be used against you if you end up going to court.
Is it necessary?
Before you can issue a court application about arrangements for children or finances on divorce you do need to have at least attended an initial Mediation Information and Assessment meeting unless your circumstances mean that you are exempt from the requirement (your solicitor can advise you about that): court is normally a last resort. You would not be expected to proceed with mediation if you are at risk, or if the need to go to court is urgent.
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