Why might I need family mediation?
When you’re going through a divorce, you need to reach an agreement with your ex-partner on two things that will affect your lives after the divorce – arrangements for your children and a financial agreement. This is known as a ‘divorce settlement’. While simple in principle, the realities of going through a divorce can make reaching an agreement with your ex-partner in these areas difficult. This could lead to drawn-out and expensive legal battles that make both of you unhappy with the eventual outcome.
Family mediation is a way of helping you to settle your differences with the help of professional third person – known as a ‘mediator’. Family mediators are trained to help you find common ground with your ex-partner by providing impartial advice. They can help you to decide on:
- Who gets custody of your children
- Child maintenance payments
- How your marital assets should be divided between you, such as property, savings, and pensions
- How any debts should be shared
Step 1: Introductory meeting with a mediator
You will first be invited to attend an introductory meeting with a mediator known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) either alone or with your ex-partner. The mediator will tell you more about how mediation works and explain how it can help you. At this stage, your mediator can also help to connect you to other support services you may need, such as a solicitor.
By law, you need to at least attend a MIAM before you can take your case to court. But you may not have to if your partner has abused you or is unwilling to come.
Step 2: Joint sessions with your ex-partner and a mediator
If you and your ex-partner both agree to continue with mediation, you will have sessions of up to two hours long where a mediator helps you to work through your disagreements together. The aim of these sessions is to help you to compromise with each other for the greater good, particularly if you have children. A mediator does this by:
- Taking both you and your ex-partner’s thoughts and feelings into account
- Creating a calm environment that reduces conflict
- Making practical suggestions to help you to agree on issues
The number of sessions you will need depends on how many disputes you need to resolve, so it helps to try to focus on one or two issues.
Step 3: Written document of agreement
Your mediator will bring the process to an end by writing a document that sets out what you’ve both agreed, known as a ‘memorandum of understanding’. While this document isn’t legally binding, you can get a solicitor to turn it into something called a ‘consent order’. This gives you more protection, particularly if your agreement is about money or property, as you can take your ex-partner to court if they go against what you agreed.
A consent order costs £50 and you will also need to pay solicitor fees. You can check if you qualify for legal aid to cover the costs on GOV.UK.
How to get the most out of family mediation
One of the benefits of family mediation is that you have control over the process - you have the final say. This means that going into mediation with the right attitude is essential. Try to agree on as much as possible with your ex-partner before you start. Bringing your disagreement down to a single issue to focus on, such as the division of savings and property, can reduce how much time you need in mediation and save you money.
Most importantly, work constructively with your ex-partner and be honest about what you want. The key to successful mediation is communication - your mediator will help to reduce any conflict that comes up between you and help you to see each other’s point of view.