Family mediation is a confidential process in which an impartial, independent mediator works together with parents or separating partners to explore the options for an agreement. The parties have full control over the decision-making process and the mediator provides information and guidance to support them in evaluating what makes the most sense to them. Parties have the freedom to explore all the options as the confidentiality of mediation means that readiness to consider a particular option cannot later be held against a party in court.
Mediation is conducted through a series of fixed cost face to face meetings. Each party first attends their own individual assessment meeting which lasts about an hour. After that, they attend the sessions together. The meetings are conducted with the parties in the same room wherever possible but there is also the option for the parties to have their own separate rooms and for the mediator to 'shuttle' between them. These meetings generally last an hour and a half and it typically takes between two and six meetings to arrive at a proposed agreement.
The cost of meetings is shared equally between the parties, although alternative arrangements can be agreed.
At the end of the mediation process, the mediator produces a 'memorandum of understanding' setting out the proposals the parties suggest should form part of an agreement. It is always recommended that independent legal advice is sought on these proposals before putting them into a formal agreement.
Mediation is suitable for the divorce process, reaching a financial settlement on divorce, working out arrangements for children and disagreements relating to property ownership. All the work is conducted within the meetings and both parties receive the same information and guidance.
Mediation is an entirely voluntary process and no-one can be forced to engage in it. The court does, however, require anyone considering issuing financial remedy proceedings on divorce or issuing an application regarding arrangements for a child to first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (a MIAM). The MIAM is designed to help people understand whether mediation could be the right forum for resolving their disagreement. It is not suitable in every situation but is accepted as being a far cheaper and quicker way of resolving a disagreement than via a court application.