How Family Mediation Works
Family mediation breaks down into three distinct stages:
First and foremost, mediation is confidential.
Initial Assessment, also called Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Since The Family Law change in April 2014, it is a requirement for clients to actively consider mediation. Your mediator will meet with you separately to explain the mediation process, what your alternative options are, to answer any questions you may have, and to assess whether mediation is suitable. As part of this assessment you will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate document.
Mediation Process, how it starts, your mediator will begin by working with you on identifying the issues you wish to discuss, your hopes and concerns about future outcomes. The number of sessions will vary according to the issues and progress that can be made. Your mediator will give their view on progress at the end of each mediation session and record what has been achieved through a session summary report.
Reaching Agreement, moving forwards, towards the end of mediation, your mediator will draft up a record of areas covered and agreed proposals. This is called a Memorandum of Understanding. If both agree this can be discussed with your solicitor who can provide you with independent advice and guidance. If the matters covered includes Property and Finance then an Open Financial Summary is produced which will set out the details of how you have reached agreement over financial issues. These documents can be used by your solicitor to write a Consent Order that makes agreements reached into a legally binding court order.
What To Expect
If you, and your former partner, decide to go ahead with mediation you will be invited to attend a joint meeting. Mediation sessions generally last up to 90 minutes. Initially your mediator will work with you separately to identify what the issues are, what your hopes are for a mediated outcome and any concerns you may have.
The mediation sessions will only discuss issues that you raise and any decisions you reach will be made by you, helped by your mediator. Your mediator is there to manage the process of helping you reach decisions which are acceptable to you both.
Mediations generally take between 1-6 sessions and depend on the complexity and progress made and whether the issues are to do with children, property and finance or all of these.
If the issues involve property and finance, you will be asked to disclose all of your financial information including all assets, debts, liabilities as well as property valuations, and pensions estimates (called Cash Equivalent Transfer Value – CETV).
Where issues involve making arrangements about your child or children, the courts expect you to place their interests first. Your mediator can help write up child contact and living arrangements which are also called a “parenting plan”.
Towards the end of mediation, your mediator will draft documents that set out everything that has been decided, including property, finances and child contact proposals. At this stage, and if you both agree, you can discuss the content with a solicitor or other specialist. Mediation proposals are not legally binding until made into a court order. Your solicitor can assist you with this.