This week is family mediation week, so we wanted to take the opportunity to sing the virtues of the mediation process. You can find out more about some of the events happening during family mediation week here.
Family Mediation Week got off to a great start with the announcement of the extension of the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme. This is a scheme whereby the first £500 including VAT of a new mediation which includes children matters is covered by a fund set up by the Family Mediation Council and Ministry of Justice. We are signatories to the scheme so if this is something you are interested please contact out mediators, Thomas Brownrigg and Trudi Featherstone, for more details. You can find their profiles and contact details in the ‘Who we are’ section our website. In a time where there are so many cuts to the justice system, this injection of funding into mediation to make it more accessible and encourage an amicable way of resolving family disputes is most welcome.
Family Mediation Week is as good a time as any to explain the mediation process and highlight some of its benefits:
- Mediation is a voluntary process. I would encourage those considering mediation to see the the fact that a party is suggesting mediation as a way of resolving a dispute as a clear indication that they would like to resolve matters amicably and are prepared to have a discussion in order to find a way of doing that.
- Your mediator or mediators are completely impartial. Both of our mediators are solicitors as well as mediators and have a wealth of experience dealing with complex children matters and financial issues. They will use their expertise to guide you both through mediation, help you identify your priorities, the issues you want to resolve, what options are available to you and exploring where compromise lies to help you build an agreement. They can give you information about the legal process to help discussions, but not advice.
- The mediation process is confidential and legally privileged. The purpose of this is to create a safe space within which you can have frank discussions about options for settling a case, what you want and where you are prepared to compromise without fear of that being used against you in Court. It is one of the only environments where such discussions can take place on children issues in particular. The only exceptions to that confidentiality are the exchange of financial disclosure and any safeguarding concerns which need to be disclosed to the relevant authorities.
- The importance of children’s voices being heard in matters relating to them arising from their parents’ separation is now widely recognised. Mediation facilitates that by allowing the children to have a confidential discussion with a child- inclusive mediator. They will meet with them, discuss their views and relay to the parents anything the children want to share. This can be an incredibly powerful way of getting independent insight into the children’s views and wishes for the future and is often incredibly helpful for parents. We generally encourage all parents with children ages 10 and over to consider child-inclusive mediation. Our Thomas Brownrigg is a trained child-inclusive mediator, so please do get in touch with him if you have any questions about this.
- Mediation can adapt to your circumstances and the best way you communicate. Traditionally it takes place with both parties and the mediators in a room together, although as a result of the pandemic that can happen virtually now. That can be particularly helpful where there is a considerable distance between the parties or one is overseas, but they still want to explore mediation. If the parties are not comfortable being in a room together we offer shuttle mediation where you would be in separate rooms and the mediator will go between you both. Sometimes it can be helpful for there to be two mediators helping parties resolve matters. In more complex cases it can be helpful to have legal representatives present, a financial advisor or maybe a family consultant. It is your process and we will do our utmost to adapt it to help create the best environment for you to reach an amicable conclusion.
The mediation process tends to be far cheaper that resolving disputes through solicitors or the Court. Both participants would have a pre-mediation meeting or mediation intake assessment meeting (MIAM). Once that has happened, and provided mediation is appropriate, mediation will begin. Every case is different, but a general rule of thumb is that we would expect around 3 to 5 sessions lasting around an hour and a half. There may be some work required between sessions. If the parties in mediation decide upon terms of settlement the mediator will draw up a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the proposed terms of settlement which the parties can take to their legal representatives to formalise openly.
If you would like further information about mediation or would like to arrange mediation, please get in touch with our mediators Thomas Brownrigg and Trudi Featherstone and they will be happy to assist you.