Mediation: Its good to talk...

Blog by Aimee Baker

Mediation is a reasonable, cost-effective and grown-up process to keep people out of court yet it is overlooked and underused. The concept of mediation is to open the line of communication and encourage settlement by agreement. To find resolution and avoid conflict.

Mediators are professionals, trained to help clients negotiate solutions on all issues arising from separation:
• what will happen to the house
• where will everyone live
• how will the individuals separate their finances and assets
• how will the children cope
• when will they spend time with each parent and how will this affect wider family members.

There are many complex and varied issues to consider and it is usually a very stressful time for the whole family.
Mediation is a great, cost-effective way for families to resolve difficult problems and to emerge with a sense of achievement.

It seems that even with the introduction of the child arrangements programme in 2014 where attending a mediation information assessment meeting became a requirement before issuing children act proceedings there has been a fall in mediation since the introduction of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is to explore if the problem can be settled by Mediation. If you attend a MIAM and the mediator assesses that your case is eligible for mediation then you will be informed of this.

Whilst the introduction of LASPO cut legal aid for some private family law matters . It was intended to divert separating couples away from the court and towards mediation. It should have been made clearer that legal aid for mediation is still available.

Many people bypass mediation as they believe the other party will refuse to attend. By opting to attend mediation first, you are opening the line of communication to the other party and indicating to them that you wish to resolve the dispute with the need for court litigation. By choosing a mediator, this does not mean you’re not using a lawyer. Our mediators at Greens solicitors are qualified solicitors and qualified mediators. Both play a different role. The role of a mediator is to resolve the dispute outside the court room. To avoid conflict and lengthy litigation.

Mediation is a more convenient, faster and cost effective way to resolve family disputes. It gives you greater control as you negotiate your arrangement and more importantly it preserves the relationship between the two parties.

Mediation will help you focus on effectively communicating with each other as opposed to attacking each other. We understand that discussing family issues particularly, financial and children matters can be a very difficult and emotional time, so why not make it easier and use mediation.

A new type of mediation model which has been endorsed by the Law Society, this is known as ‘Hybrid Mediation’. This type of mediation promotes a joined up approach by lawyers and mediators to work together. This type of mediation is where parties lawyers are physically present during the mediation. The mediator remains in control of the mediation and will hold separate confidential Meetings with each party and their lawyers. It is hoped that this will address the current barriers to successful family mediation. Enabling more families to resolve disputes without the need to go to court.

There has also been the introduction of ‘child inclusive mediation’ where the parties are faced with child arrangements issues. This type of mediation involves the child meeting the mediator separately of their parents to share their views, wishes and feelings. These are then shared and fed back to the parents.

It is important for you to know that in mediation, all discussions are without prejudice meaning they are confidential and cannot be shared or used against you in the event court proceedings did commence. Meaning you have nothing to lose but everything to gain by attempting to find resolution by using mediation.

There are few exceptions to mediation where one or both parties have perpetrated domestic abuse or where the matter is urgent and therefore mediation is not suitable. However, we would recommend that you contact us first to find out if mediation is right for you. At greens solicitors we do offer ‘shuttle mediation’ which means you can mediate with your ex-partner without having to sit in the same room as them. This is sometimes beneficial if one or both parties will feel more comfortable to mediate in two separate rooms.

Given the benefits of mediation, it seems disappointing that more people are not using the service more. It is something that in the near future will become mainstream. The courts are there to determine family disputes where parents are unable to reach agreement but a lot of the time this can result in a final court order that is not what either party wanted. Its your family, so you should decide what is best for them. With mediation, you take control. You will be guided and supported throughout the mediation process and the meetings can be arranged at a time convenient for you.

At Greens solicitors, we offer mediation services and will try to help you find resolution as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Talk to a member of our team today to understand your options. Our expert lawyers will advise you whether your case is suitable for mediation. And if mediation is not appropriate then we may still be able to advise and represent you.