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What happens if my ex won’t go to mediation

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

What is mediation?

Family mediation can provide a quick, low-cost, non-confrontational way for separating couples to resolve disputes over issues arising from their separation, including, but not limited to, children arrangements and separating the matrimonial finances.

Mediation is a process by which an independent qualified mediator works with a couple to help them come to a mutual agreement. Mediation is an entirely voluntary process. Therefore no party can be forced to attend, and it is open to the parties to decide to leave mediation at any stage. It is a confidential process, so parties have confidence to discuss their position openly knowing the mediator will not report their discussion to the court.

While mediation is a voluntary proves, it is a pre-requisite to some court applications to consider mediation as an option, unless exemptions apply, for example the matter is urgent or there is a risk of harm if the court application is not commenced immediately.

Why is your ex refusing to go to mediation?

Refusal to go to mediation is often linked to a misunderstanding of the process. Talking things through with your former partner and explaining what the process entails can often allay their concerns.

Mediation is not relationship counselling

Your ex may fear that you haven’t accepted that the relationship is over and that you are attempting to get back together with them. In reality, by going to mediation you are both accepting that you are separating and looking to address the practical issues associated with this.

The family mediator is impartial:

Your ex may believe that, because you have contacted a mediator, they will be on your side during the process. In fact, mediators are impartial experts whose role is to guide you through the process and support you in finding a mutually acceptable settlement.

It is less stressful than a court hearing

Your ex may be concerned that mediation will be another source of anxiety for them at what is already a difficult time. Mediation, though, is often much less stressful than a court hearing, where the adversarial nature of the proceedings can deepen divisions.

By helping separating couples talk through issues in a constructive manner, mediation can provide the platform for a future cordial relationship – benefitting the individuals and their children. The flexibility of mediation also means that sessions can be arranged around work and childcare commitments, and breaks can be taken whenever required.

The process is confidential

Your ex may be uneasy with the idea of discussing personal matters with a stranger. The mediator, though, will not judge you or your ex, or apportion blame. In addition, everything said in the process is confidential. By contrast, a court hearing could involve talking in front of more people and in a confrontational atmosphere.


Some people fear that by going to mediation they are losing control of the process. The mediation process actually puts you and your ex in charge of deciding on future arrangements. Whereas a court hearing will see a judge impose a settlement, mediation enables you to work together to find common ground. Many people find the mediation process allows them to maintain their self-esteem as they know that their voice has been listened to and respected.

Mediation is usually much cheaper than a court hearing

Separation can be an expensive business for many people with the need to find new accommodation and pay household bills on their own. Your ex may view mediation as an unnecessary expense at such a difficult time.

Mediation, though, is usually much cheaper than legal proceedings. You may also be eligible for a government scheme which offers vouchers of up to £500 towards the cost of mediation in cases involving children.

Mediation is a quick process

It is possible that your ex is refusing to go to mediation as they fear becoming bogged down indefinitely in the process at a time w hen they are eager to move on with their lives. In fact, mediation is usually much quicker than the legal process – especially now that Covid-19 has caused delays and backlogs to the court system.

Many mediation cases are resolved with between three and five meetings of around 90 minutes each. The mediator will suggest a schedule of sessions at your initial meeting so both you and your ex know what you are committing to before agreeing to mediation.

If your ex still won’t go to mediation, you could suggest that they have an introductory meeting with a mediator (MIAM).

Can my ex take me to court without mediation?

Your ex may want to proceed straight to court for a number of reasons:

  • They are exempt from the legal requirement to consider mediation (for example, in cases of domestic violence or if a child is at risk).
  • They have already attended a MIAM and feel mediation is not an option.
  • They are unaware of the mediation process or what it entails.
  • They are unaware that you would like to go to mediation.

In these cases it is important that you attend court. You can, however, inform your ex, their solicitor and the judge of your preference for mediation. Even if a court hearing has begun, the judge can adjourn it while mediation takes place.

Will it look bad if I refuse mediation?

In reaching a verdict the court will take into account the conduct of both parties in the build up to the hearing. By law you must consider mediation and attend at least one MIAM to see if it is a viable option.

The judge will expect you to have a good reason for not having tried mediation. If they feel you have not been sufficiently committed to resolving the dispute out of court, this could influence their verdict in terms of the division of financial assets and the awarding of costs.

Where can I find out more about mediation?

Ed Rawlins, the head of Wilson Browne’s Family Mediation Team, has more than 20 years’ experience in family law. Our mediation service, which is available in person or remotely, follows the Family Mediation Council Code of Practice for Family Mediators.

Please get in touch to discuss how we can help you and your family.  Call 0800 088 6004 or fill in our online form.

Jess Leech


Jess Leech


Jess is an Associate & Legal 500 Recommended Solicitor in our Family Law Team, who advises clients on all areas of Private Family Law including Injunction Orders (Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders), Pre- and Post-Nuptial Agreements, Divorce, Separation of Finances, Cohabitee Disputes and Children Matters.