Difficulty in a relationship is one of the top causes of major stress. Anyone struggling with separation or divorce knows the impact that it can have on you and the other people in your family. Mediation is a process which can be used to reduce conflict and find a resolution – potentially more quickly and with less stress than by other means.
What is mediation?
If you’re going through a divorce or separation, but cannot agree on how to split your assets or how to share the responsibility for your children, a mediator can help. They will work with you and your partner to help you both communicate more effectively and to try and reach a solution. The straightforward and friendly way in which mediation takes place, means it is likely to result in both people feeling they have been listened to.
How does mediation work?
A trained mediator talks to both of you, separately at first, to fully understand what each of you would like to achieve. They are independent and will focus on enabling you both to communicate what you want to say and then move on to meet together, with the mediator present in the room. Their aim is to help you to find a fair resolution that you can both agree upon. The kind of issues on which a mediator and can help resolve conflict include:
- money – how assets are divided up and who pays what to whom
- property – who stays in the house, who has to move out, how property assets are divided
- children – how any children are to be cared for and how much time they spend with each parent
As well as listening to you, a mediator will set out how you and your ex-partner will work together at the mediation sessions, so that you can both speak to each other with respect, with a view to keeping things calm and constructive. The mediator can then record this information and give each of you a copy; this gives each of you reassurance that both your opinions have been heard and documented.
You don’t have to go to a mediator to resolve issues arising out of separation, but if you do end up going to Court, you usually have to show evidence that you have already tried mediation. There are some exemptions – that is situations where you are not required to have tried mediation. Examples of these are:
- allegations of domestic abuse (risk of safety or risk of life)
- if the safety or well-being of a child appears to be in danger
- if the dispute is about money and one of the parties is bankrupt
- if there is an agreement and the two of you are not in dispute
- if you or your ex-partner usually lives abroad.
Benefits of mediation
It’s often a good idea to at least explore mediation as an option because there are important benefits which could make things easier for you, such as:
- you get to choose what is important to be discussed
- the timings are chosen by you
- you make the final decisions, rather than a judge. If you go to Court, a judge will make the decisions, which you will then have to abide by, whether you want to or not
- it is often quicker, taking weeks rather than months, as is often the case with other means of resolution
- it can be cheaper.
Three stages of mediation
Before you go to mediation
During the first session (which is known as a MIAM - Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) you will usually meet with your mediator one-to-one and they will explain the process.
After you have both attended an individual meeting, there will be a first joint meeting with the mediator, which both you and your ex-partner attend together. The mediator will support you and your partner to talk constructively and encourage you to start looking at options and ideas.
If you’re trying to reach an agreement about money and/or property, you’ll have to fill out a financial disclosure form, which covers:
- your income
- living costs
- money in the bank
- debts you owe
- property you own.
It’s important that you and your ex-partner are honest when you talk about your finances. If your ex-partner discovers that you have not disclosed all of your money, they can take you to Court to change any arrangement
Hopefully, in this way, you will find a happy medium and a resolution to the dispute. This workable solution can become part of a legal document. While your mediator will most likely have knowledge of some legal issues regarding relationships, your mediator cannot give any legal advice. However, they will:
- listen to both your points of view
- help create a calm atmosphere in which you can both express your views
- suggest practical steps for resolution.
If there are children involved, the mediator will normally focus on what’s best for the health and well-being of the child.
At the end of your mediation
You will both be presented with a ‘memorandum of understanding’ which is a document setting out the basis of the arrangement you have reached as a solution. However, if your case involves money or property it’s a good idea to take it to a solicitor and ask them to turn it into a ‘consent order’. This is an order which sets out the arrangements and is confirmed by the Court so that it becomes legally binding.
Is mediation legally binding?
The agreements you make and the documents that are created are not legally binding. Mediation is a voluntary process which gives couples breaking up, the opportunity for an amicable agreement to help them move forward. However, you can choose to make your agreements legally binding by asking a solicitor to draft a Consent Order which will outline the terms which were agreed during your mediation sessions. This Consent Order can then be used as a legal document during your divorce and if you go to Court it will be given to the judge prior to your Court hearing.
What is the cost of mediation?
There is not a set cost for mediation. The price is dependent on the number of sessions, the context of the settlement and the fees the mediator chooses to charge. However, mediation is much more financially viable than going to Court and often results in a much more amicable arrangement between both parties. So the relatively low cost is usually well worth it.
If you can’t reach an arrangement through mediation
If mediation is not successful there are other options including arbitration. The first thing you should do is contact a specialist solicitor.
How can we help?
Here at Tees, we offer a mediation service, whereby we will listen to both parties and use our wealth of knowledge and expertise to try to find a solution that suits everyone involved. A great example of this was when Abigail and Graham came to us to discuss their divorce; they clashed over several major stumbling blocks including; their house, their pensions and their child arrangements, but thanks to the work of our expert team, we were able to resolve their issues as quickly and as cheaply as possible - and without them needing to go to Court. You can read their full story here…
We’re here to help
If you want a lawyer to take a closer look at your situation, for a fixed fee of £150 + VAT, we can talk with you for up to 90 minutes and set out some options.