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Guide to Family Mediation

What is Family Mediation

Family mediation is open to any members of a family who have a dispute they need to resolve.  Family mediation usually takes place in divorce proceedings – providing a means to resolve issues around finance, children and property – but can also take place between wider family members.  For example, grandparents may seek family mediation to arrange time when they can see their grandchildren following the breakdown in the parents’ relationship.

How Does Mediation Work?

When couples decide to end their relationship mediation can help them to work through together arrangements for children, property and finances and any other consideration relevant to the family.   A mediator is impartial and is trained to help and assist them to find solutions that they can both agree upon.

What Happens At Family Mediation

The Mediation Process

Family mediation is governed by four principles:

  • mediation is voluntary, both parties and the mediator have to agree mediation is suitable;
  • mediation is confidential, except where there are concerns of risk of their being harm to a child or vulnerable adult or a criminal offence;
  • the mediator is impartial, he/she facilitates negotiation having to maintain the trust and confidence of both people;
  • decision making rests with the participants to the mediation.

These four principles are central to the practice of family mediators in England & Wales.

Working within these principles ensures that mediation provides a highly effective non-court dispute resolution process.

Stage One – What Is Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)?

This is sometimes referred to as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

At this meeting our mediator will:

  • provide information about the process of mediation and other forms of family dispute resolution;
  • start to clarify the areas where there are disputes, and provide options for resolving them;
  • identify other sources of support including financial, emotional and legal;

At the MIAM our mediator will talk to you about your concerns and your immediate priorities, with the aim of setting an agenda for areas to be negotiated. This typically includes children, finance and property issues. Discussions will take place with each person separately until or unless it is recognised to be appropriate for a full mediation session to take place together.

As well as providing information about what mediation can provide, the mediator is making an assessment about a person’s ability to mediate. Mediation will not take place until the ‘agreement to mediate’ is in place and signed by all parties.

What Is An Agreement To Mediate?

By signing the agreement to mediate, those involved understand that all communications, (except the disclosure of financial information) are made solely for the purpose of attempting to reach a settlement and are made on the basis that the communications are:

  • confidential;
  • will not be referred to in evidence in any court proceedings about the same issues;
  • will not be used in affidavits or statements. This promise of confidentiality does not prevent the mediator disclosing information where there is significant risk to the life, health or safety of children, the parties, or anyone else, or in relation to money laundering/other unlawful act(s).

A Court is not able to require a mediator to disclose information about any mediation which has taken place except where there is an over-riding obligation in law.

In some cases mediation might not be suitable. If mediation does not go ahead after the MIAM our family mediator can sign off the appropriate court form to enable an application to proceed to court.

Stage Two – How Long Does Family Mediation Take?

If mediation goes ahead after the MIAM this takes the form of confidential joint round the table meetings between the couple and the mediator. Sessions last for the period of time those involved agree to, but often for around 90 minutes. There may be between 1-5 joint sessions depending on the issues to be resolved. Usually more than one session is required to reach an agreement that is likely to work in practice – having more than one session can also allow time for reflection and for arrangements that are being discussed to be tested.

Mediation appointments take place in a time-frame that is practical for those involved.

impartial legal information can be provided to help couples to consider the proposals they wish to make and to achieve a realistic outcome.

Typically, a mediated settlement is achieved more quickly than one that goes through the full court process.

Stage Three – Is Family Mediation Legally Binding?

If agreement is reached, our mediator can be asked to draft a Memorandum of Understanding. This can be used to form the basis of a Consent Order or a binding agreement. Participants in mediation are advised to take legal advice, both during mediation and on any proposals they have made.

If full agreement is not reached then the couple can take independent legal advice and consider an application to the Court, but often the issues that cannot be settled have been narrowed through the discussions that have taken place.

The mediation process will not suit everyone. When it works, though, mediation can ensure that couples work together to build a future after the ending their relationship in a constructive way and it can also help to improve communication for any future discussions that may need to take place.

How Much Does Family Mediation Cost?

For an initial meeting (MIAM) the cost is £200 plus VAT per person.

Mediation costs after the initial meeting are dependant upon how many sessions participants agree to have.  The usual cost is £175 plus VAT per hour per person.

Who Pays For Family Mediation?

If the initial meeting is on an individual basis, each person will pay their own costs.  Joint MIAMs and the cost of any mediation that follows will be split equally between the people attending

If you would like to know more, please contact our Specialist Family Mediation Team on 0800 088 6004