Mediation is a voluntary process that brings together opposite sides in a dispute to help them arrive at their own decisions regarding their issues, on an informed basis with an understanding, so far as reasonably practicable, of the implications and consequences of such decisions for themselves and any children involved. This can be spouses contemplating divorce, separating parents deciding on the future arrangements for their children or unmarried couples who own assets together.
Mediation takes place in an informal and confidential environment. To work both parties must agree to engage in the process. The mediator is impartial and neutral. They provide information only and no tailored legal advice although they can provide general legal information about the law and how the court deals with certain issues. A real benefit of mediation is the opportunity to look creatively at how a problem or issue can be resolved.
The right mediator will find the best approach for the parties and their specific dispute. Discussions conducted in mediation about possible terms of settlement are on a confidential basis and remain so after mediation has concluded.
This means that they cannot be referred to by either person in any subsequent court proceedings should mediation break down. This allows each person to explore their options freely without the worry of being legally bound by those discussions.
There are some exceptions to confidentiality if the mediator believes that any child or any other person affected by the mediation is suffering of likely to suffer significant harm – in these circumstances the mediator is bound to make a referral to an outside agency. Since April 2011 anyone wishing to issue court proceedings in family cases will have to show that they have considered mediation and alternative ways of resolving their dispute before resorting to the court. There are some specific exceptions such as where there has been domestic violence.
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