Is Family Mediation worth it?

It is two years since the government introduced a new law to encourage separating couples to use mediation as a way of settling financial and parenting issues in divorce.

Under the policy introduced on 22 April 2014, attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is compulsory for all separated couples before they can apply for a court order - whether in respect of finances or their children. These meetings help couples decide if mediation – where they work through their issues with an impartial third party (the mediator) - is the best way of resolving their differences.  

National Family Mediation say that their figures show that in 2014/15 only 1 in 20 applications for private law proceedings to a family court followed the new 'compulsory' route – fewer than 5,000 MIAMs from over 112,000 private law applications. 

Mediation is never about trying to get a separating couple to try and get back together. Mediation acknowledges that the relationship has ended and that the process moving forward is about resolving unsolved issues such as child maintenance. 

Some couples believe that mediation is a mere tick-box exercise that has to be fulfilled before having to attend court. However, if mediation proves successful and both parties can reach an understanding, there may be no need to go to court.

In fact, if successful, mediation can prove a much more cost effective route to take than taking an issue straight to court. Court fees alone are increasing and a lengthy court battle can prove both very expensive and stressful.

Mediation can settle property and financial issues or disputes relating to children. If such things can be resolved through mediation and an agreement found between both parties, this can be agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding.

Below are some common questions regarding mediation:

What is a Mediation Information Meeting (MIAM)?

  • A MIAM is a one to one meeting with a mediator to enable you to be given information about the mediation process. The meeting will help you decide whether you want to mediate with your ex, and will help the mediator to determine whether mediation is suitable in your personal circumstances.
  • If both parties attend a MIAM and mediation then goes ahead, there will be one or more joint meetings between the couple to try to resolve their differences. If the mediator decides that mediation is not appropriate, they will sign a form which allows you to make an application to the court.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Most family law cases are suitable to be referred for mediation and benefits can include:

  • Enabling better communication between both parties. Poor communication can often be the most common cause of problems over child arrangements
  • Allowing parents to make the decisions for themselves about their children - rather than leaving it to the court.

Is mediation suitable for all cases?
Mediation is not a substitute for good legal advice – and importantly – it is not suitable for everyone. It is inappropriate for those who are vulnerable (adults and children), or where one party is not prepared to cooperate.

In what situations or circumstances would mediation not be an option? 
Where there is any risk or danger involved – or where speed is of the essence – e.g.

  • Risk of harm to the child
  • Urgency, such as abduction cases
  • Threat of domestic violence
  • International cases.

At Leadenhall Law Group we understand that mediation has an important role to play in managing any dispute between separated couples. We uphold the process by providing guidance and advice at each stage of the process, and ensure that our clients feel supported at every step of the way. If mediation fails for whatever reason, the relationship we have built with our client ensures we are ideally placed to take their case forward effectively using the most appropriate alternative options.   

If you have any queries about any aspect of separation or divorce please call 01603 621722 for more information or to arrange a free initial appointment.

By Yasmin Parnell