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Resolve disputes efficiently and cost-effectively with our family mediation services

The breakdown of a relationship can be difficult and this can make it seem hard to reach agreement on decisions such as division of finances and child arrangements. We never lose sight of the fact that we need to listen to and work with you to find the best way forward. Our experienced mediators can help you resolve family disputes sensitively and cost-effectively in a supported environment.

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 or alternatively for the sessions to take place online.

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 and dissolution process, reaching a financial settlement on divorce or dissolution, working out arrangements for children, and disagreements between cohabitants, including disputes relating to property ownership and negotiating prenuptial agreements. 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 dissolution, 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 the parties 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.

Advantages

  • We are specialists. All our mediators are highly experienced family lawyers in both finance and children cases with outstanding reputations for helping couples find swift resolutions to what otherwise might seem overwhelming family problems.
  • The process is creative allowing for bespoke and innovative solutions to be found tailored to you and your family's needs.
  • Mediation is discrete and confidential which means that the discussions are privileged and cannot be disclosed within the court process without your agreement.
  • It can include input from other professionals to ensure you receive the information and help you need to make the best decisions for your family. In complex financial cases, we can involve specialists in pensions, tax, property and business valuations.
  • Mediation can be quicker and more cost-effective than court-based resolutions and provide greater certainty in terms of overall costs.
  • It can be flexible and tailored around you and your schedule with the ability to arrange sessions at short notice should any urgent issue arise.
  • Mediation reduces stress and conflict and enables parties to lay the foundation for a more cooperative relationship to assist them in moving forward and adjusting successfully to their new lives.

Our services and facilities

We are able to offer ‘in person’ mediation as well as the facilities to undertake remote sessions through various online platforms. We will take care of setting up the platform and simply send you the link to join removing any stresses of technology, so you can focus upon the resolution of the case.

Guides and support

Frequently asked questions

  • Do I have to go to mediation?

    Although mediation is a voluntary process and therefore you can refuse to attend, it is important to think carefully about what the alternative is and what the consequences could be if you refused.

    Separation can be hard on everyone, particularly children caught in the middle of what can develop into bitter and drawn-out court proceedings. Mediation can offer the opportunity to put an end to the spiral of conflict and find tailored solutions that meet the needs of the whole family enabling you to get on with your lives.

    Quite often litigation will leave one, if not both, parties dissatisfied with the outcome. In some cases, they will unhappily limp along with the arrangement until one of them applies back to the court or the dissatisfaction will lead to contempt and the prospect of enforcement proceedings perpetuating the cycle of litigation and acrimony. Conversely, arrangements reached through mediation with the input and support of both are more likely to endure. Mediation also offers the opportunity to ‘road test’ solutions and to review and refine over time as necessary.

    A mediated settlement can achieve significant savings in costs when compared to an acrimonious solicitor/court-based route.

  • What is a MIAM?

    A MIAM — or Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting — is the first step whether you are contemplating court proceedings, wish to mediate, or simply want to know what the various dispute resolution options are available to you.

    The MIAM will give you an opportunity to tell the mediator about your situation and the issues that need to be decided. The mediator will then be able to explain to you what your options might be, how mediation works and the likely costs and whether there may be other appropriate ways of resolving those issues such as collaborative law or arbitration.

    The meeting will often take place with just you and the mediator and lasts approximately 45 minutes.

    Unless you are exempt you cannot begin court proceedings without attending a MIAM with a mediator.

    Our mediators will be able to tell you if your case is suitable for mediation. If it is, they will provide advice as to the next steps. If mediation is not suitable or you do not wish to continue with the process, the mediator can then provide you with a MIAM certificate that will enable you to start court proceedings.

    A MIAM certificate is valid for four months. If an application to the court has not been made within that timeframe you will need to renew the certificate.

  • Do I need a MIAM?

    If you are contemplating making an application to the court to resolve either a financial dispute with your partner, or arrangements for a child or children,  then you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless you are exempt.

    The court will accept a limited number of exemptions, some of which will require specific evidence in support, which are as follows (as of February 2022):

    • There has been domestic abuse. You will need to show that the other person was arrested for a domestic violence offence or provide details of any criminal proceedings. If you do not have this, then you will need to provide written evidence from a medical practitioner, domestic abuse organisation, or other professional body to show that domestic abuse has taken place.
    • Either of you live abroad. You may however want to consider the possibility of online mediation where either distance or travel is an issue.
    • You don’t know where the other person lives.
    • You previously attended a MIAM within the last 4 months.
    • There are already ongoing proceedings.
    • You require an urgent hearing. Although most family disputes have a degree of urgency to them this will be determined by the court. Obvious examples would be where there was a risk of life or serious harm to a child or if the child was about to be unlawfully removed from the country.
    • There are child protection concerns where for example the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan or the local authority are making enquiries into their safety.
    • If the hearing needs to be made without notice to the other person.
    • You have a disability that cannot be accommodated meaning you are unable to get to a family mediator within 15 miles of your home.
    • If you or the other person is in prison or subject to bail conditions.
    • You or the other person to the dispute is under the age of 18 years.
    • You do not have a mediator within 15 miles of where you live. Online mediation is however a possibility where distance may be an issue.
    • There are no mediators available within 15 miles of where you live that can arrange a MIAM within 15 working days (3 weeks).
    • You are submitting a Consent Order to the court.
    • You are making a financial application and either you or the other person is or about to be made bankrupt.
  • How do I prepare for a MIAM?

    A MIAM is an opportunity to meet and build rapport with the mediator and ask any questions you might have. Take time to think about what you need to know ahead of the meeting and if necessary, write those questions down and bring them with you.

    It is always helpful to have a notepad to jot down any useful information and if there are any relevant court orders bring those along too. Other than that, you do not have to prepare anything. Our mediators are there to help and support you and will guide you through the process.

  • How to choose a mediator?

    First and foremost, they must be registered with the Family Mediation Council (FMC). All our mediators at Weightmans are registered with both the FMC and the Family Mediation Association (FMA) ensuring the highest possible standards.

    Are they able to offer co-mediation as an option? At Weightmans we can offer co-mediation as well as collaborate with other professionals including financial neutrals, life coaches and mentors.

    Cost is also an important factor and not just the initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) fee. This will largely be dependent upon the range and complexity of the issues in dispute but consider whether fixed fee packages are available. Please contact us to discuss the fixed fee arrangements that would be suitable to you.

    It is important that you consider all the areas of your future you are likely to mediate over. Whilst a mediator cannot provide legal advice, they can provide neutral legal and financial information. Check that the mediator is experienced in handling those matters. At Weightmans all our mediators are experienced family solicitors practiced in handling the most complex financial and children matters.

  • What does a mediator do?

    When agreements are hard to reach, mediators step in to help create tailored arrangements for the future that work for everyone involved.

    They will help you brainstorm, providing a safe space in which to discuss and explore ideas and test options before arriving at a solution.

    Mediators can offer legal information as well as possible alternate options to consider which may not otherwise have been thought of.

    Throughout, the mediator will help maintain focus ensuring that discussions remain centred where they should be on reaching a fair and amicable solution.

    At Weightmans, our family mediators specialise in working with clients to create bespoke, effective arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship that let you move on with your lives.

  • How does Child Inclusive Mediation work?

    Child Inclusive Mediation involves a family mediator who is trained as a child consultant talking with a child or children as a part of the mediation process in which arrangements are being made for them.

    The process can provide an important means by which parents can gain an understanding of the views, needs and desires of their child.

    Subject to the consent of both parents and child, it is the mediator’s decision as to whether Child Inclusive Mediation is appropriate.

    Generally, it is only suitable for children aged 10 years and above although they may, in exceptional circumstances, be younger. 

    The child can either meet with the mediator who is already working with the parents or as often happens, with a separate mediator.

    Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. Siblings can be seen separately or together depending on what the children themselves prefer.

    What the child may say to the mediator is completely confidential from anyone else including their parents. Often the child will have something they want the mediator to tell their parents for them to take into consideration when making decisions about them. It is through that process, with the child’s permission, that their voice in then brought into the mediation.

  • How does Lawyer Inclusive/Integrated Mediation and Hybrid Mediation work?

    Both processes involve the participation of other family law professionals and experts to give advice and support to the parties during the sessions in what can be complex or difficult cases.

    Usually, the mediator will meet with both parties and their lawyers as a group at the start of the process before they split off into their separate rooms. There, they may be joined by their accountants and other individuals necessary to help them making up a ‘team’ to facilitate an agreement.

    The two ‘teams’ are able to meet in separate rooms to explore issues, address concerns, and develop proposals.

    The mediator will go between the two, helping them explore the issues, address concerns, and develop options before hopefully arriving at a mutually acceptable set of proposals.

    What distinguishes Hybrid Mediation is the agreement around transparency.

    Ordinarily a mediator will not keep information given to them by one party confidential from the other side as it is thought that helps develop the parties’ trust in the mediator’s neutrality. In contrast, in Hybrid Mediation, the mediator will only share with the other side information which they have been authorised to disclose. This means that mediators can have separate, confidential meetings with each party.

  • What are the advantages of using either Lawyer Inclusive/Integrated Mediation and Hybrid Mediation?

    There are many advantages to these processes as follows:

    • They can be particularly effective where time is of the essence by reducing the need to pause and reschedule meetings in order for parties to take legal or technical advice.
    • It can be much quicker with meetings consolidated into either a day or half day thereby requiring fewer sessions.
    • There can be a greater certainty of outcome and less risk that someone may change their mind as a result of advice having to be taken outside of the process rather than within and during the sessions.
    • Outcome documents are likely to be produced much quicker where the lawyers have been involved in the process and therefore understand at the outset the solution that has been arrived at.
    • It can be empowering for vulnerable clients having their own ‘team’ around them to ensure they are appropriately supported.
  • Are mediated agreements binding?

    Reaching an agreement in mediation does not automatically mean that it becomes binding upon each other.

    The discussions within mediation are on a ‘without prejudice basis’ which means they cannot be referred to in court.

    At the end of the mediation process each party will be provided with a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out the proposals that have been reached. In financial cases the mediator will also provide an Open Financial Statement which, unlike the Memorandum, can be referred to in future court proceedings if the mediation process breaks down.

    Provided each remain satisfied with the proposals arrived at in mediation, whether having taken legal advice or not, steps can be taken to formalise the arrangement.

    In financial cases, this will often involve preparing and filing a Consent Order with the court where there is an application for divorce. This can be a complex document to draft and should not generally be undertaken without expert legal advice.

    In relation to child arrangements, the parties have a number of options. It is not usually necessary  for the court to make an order defining the arrangements for a child or children when a couple separate. Under the Children Act 1989 there is a ‘no order presumption’ which means the court will not interfere unless necessary to do so. Consequently, many parents will simply rely upon the Memorandum produced by the mediator or use that as the basis for creating a Parenting Plan although these are not legally binding. If court proceedings are already underway or the parties need an order, they can file a Consent Order with the court.

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