How mediation can help your family during a divorce

For separating couples, court can be a daunting prospect, especially due to the costs and time taken up by court proceedings. On the other hand, the UK court system is also overwhelmed by the volume of civil cases, which is why divorce mediation has been a legal requirement since 2014.

Couples seeking a divorce have to attend an initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before going to court as it aims to help both parties to agree on issues relating to their children, finances and property.

The mediation process itself will not issue a divorce, but a judge may adjourn a case if the divorcing partners haven’t tried mediation first, except under particular circumstances such as where domestic abuse is involved.

The process of divorce mediation involves a neutral third party known as a Mediator facilitating discussions, helping both partners come to a mutual agreement. Mediation costs less than court and usually takes less time as the schedule is decided upon by the people taking part.

What does a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting involve?

The first mediation meeting, whether it’s referred to as a MIAM or not, will follow a fairly standard procedure. You don’t have to see your former partner if you don’t want to; you can be in separate rooms or attend separate meetings if that’s easier. Even if you are both present at the same time, you may each have some time to spend alone with the mediator to ensure neither person is being pressured or forced into mediation.

During the meeting, your mediator will explain to you how the process works and how they can help you to make arrangements pertaining to your children, finances and property, as well as the costs involved in the event that you are not eligible for free mediation and Legal Aid.

Although mediation does not happen in court, it is based in law and so everyone involved is required to be completely truthful about assets, finances and other matters. Agreements made in mediation are not in themselves legally binding, but they can be made into a consent order which your mediator can help you arrange.

Divorce mediation options available

Every family is unique, and so there is no one single way to arrange a divorce mediation. Depending on how difficult the situation is, you may consider:

  • Sole mediation – Where one mediator attends the meetings
  • Co-mediation – Two mediators are present, each representing one person
  • Shuttle mediation – If the two parties don’t wish to see each other, they can be in separate rooms with a mediator moving back and forth
  • Child-inclusive mediation – Children aged 10 and above have the right to be included in the mediation process. Children under 10 may not be present during the mediation process, but with their consent, a specialist can have a meeting with them to note their wishes. These will then be communicated to the parents.

The purpose of a divorce mediation is to provide you with a safe, calm, neutral place to discuss your issues with your former partner and work out a realistic plan for the future. It’s common for people to struggle with the process, which is why mediators will do their utmost to reduce conflict and take everyone’s wishes into account.

What if divorce mediation doesn’t work?

There are people who believe that divorce mediation before court action is a waste of time, but remember, the judge is likely to ask you to try mediation first.

Of course, it’s possible that mediation will not resolve all the issues surrounding your case, or that after the first meeting it’s obvious you will need to try other avenues. Under these circumstances, your mediator will sign a court form confirming that you’ve tried mediation without success. However, before you head straight to court, you can still consider other possibilities, such as collaborative law or arbitration – your solicitor will be able to advise you whether this is likely to help.

If your former partner simply refuses to attend a MIAM, you can still arrange one for yourself. This will help prove to the court that you have tried everything to resolve important issues.

Family mediation with Foys Solicitors

Foys have years of experience helping families and couples with their legal issues. On our team, we have dedicated Family Law solicitors and Family Mediation Council accredited meditators. Our competitive hourly rate and fixed fees make divorce mediation a cost-effective option to reach mutually agreeable solutions before going to court and formalising the divorce procedure – and if needed, you can also retain a solicitor with Foys at a later date.

If you are facing separation, dissolution or divorce – contact Foys Solicitors today for a free initial consultation.

Alternatively, contact your local Foys Solicitors office:

  • Doncaster – 01302 327 136
  • Retford – 01777 703 100
  • Worksop – 01909 500 511
  • Clowne – 01246 810 050
  • Rotherham – 01709 375 561
  • Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
  • Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609

For more information on this subject, take a look at our previous posts on Family and Children Law:

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