Over the last 5 years or so the option of attending Mediation has become much more popular and well-known for couples experiencing family breakdown, separation and other family disputes. This is largely due to the change in procedure brought in by the Children and Families Act 2014 which requires all couples (with some exceptions) to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (“MIAM”) before making an application to the Court in relation to a family law matter. Through this route, many couples in dispute will access Mediation and be able to resolve their differences together.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which sees a couple engaging with an independent, trained Mediator. The role of the Mediator is not to act as a Judge or arbitrator, but to provide a structure and forum in which the couple can safely work through their issues to hopefully reach a consensus. Following successful Mediation, the Mediator will provide a “Memorandum of Understanding” setting out the information exchanged, discussions had, and the terms of any agreement proposed. Particularly when there are financial issues involved, couples will then often be directed to obtain independent legal advice to implement the terms of their agreement.
One question frequently asked by our clients going through family breakdown is – When should I see a Mediator? The simple answer to that is – At any time! Most couples will be sign-posted to Mediation at the early stages of their separation, whether by their Solicitor, because they have attended a MIAM, or simply because they have “Googled” and found a Mediator themselves.
When dealing with financial matters on separation, Mediators and Solicitors will go through a similar exercise of obtaining financial information and exchanging that with the other party. Therefore, it makes little difference whether the collation of that information is dealt with in the Mediation process before having seen a Solicitor, or by a Solicitor prior to engaging in Mediation.
Our clients often prefer to take some legal advice before embarking upon mediation, but it is not necessary. Having legal advice “alongside” during the Mediation process can also be helpful and reassuring. However, even if you do find yourself in Court proceedings, it is still possible to engage in Mediation at any point, and generally Judges will be all too pleased to allow parties time to attempt to reach an agreement themselves though Mediation, rather than have the Court impose an outcome on them.
The role of Mediation is very flexible and adaptable and can be tailored to the needs of the separating couple. To discuss the services we offer both as Mediators, and as Solicitors, contact either Madeleine Young or Sandra Marshall in our Family Law Department
Published on 28/03/2019