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Why Use Mediation to Help Resolve Family Disputes?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

For many people family mediation has proved a highly effective way of resolving disputes involving child custody, finance and property, allowing them to move on with their lives. Figures from the Family Mediation Council (FMC) show that over 70 per cent of cases that go to mediation are successfully resolved.

Save in exceptional circumstances a person wanting to apply to the Court to resolve such issues is required to consider mediation as an alternative to a court proceedings and attend at least one Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to explore whether it could work for them.

While mediation may not be suitable for everyone, it is important to know what it involves so that you can make the right decision for you and your family.

This article will take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of family mediation.

Advantages of family mediation

  • Impartiality: Unlike the adversarial and stressful nature of a court hearing, mediation offers a neutral environment where both parties can express their views without interruption. The family mediator has no bias and plays the key role of ensuring the sessions proceed in a constructive and respectful manner.
  • Self-determination: Individuals whose case is decided in court will have a settlement imposed on them by the judge, something which can make it harder for them to move on with their lives. Mediation, in contrast, puts the parties at the centre of the decision-making process; the mediator does not make the decision as they simply use their training, experience and expertise to help the separating couple reach their own mutually acceptable solution.
  • Confidentiality: The mediator will treat everything said during sessions as confidential save in very limited circumstances (where there is an identifiable risk to a child or of a criminal offence). This can make it easier for parties to speak fully about their feelings, leading to them gaining a better understanding of each other’s perspective, which in turn can enable more productive discussions. Avoiding having highly personal information aired publicly can also allow separating couples to keep their self-respect and make it easier for them to begin a new chapter in their lives.
  • Improved communication: Following a separation it is easy for a couple to get into the habit of keeping any communication to a minimum. A stressful and adversarial court hearing could deepen these divisions and cause lasting ill feeling and a lack of co-operation, something that can be especially damaging if the couple have children. Avoiding the accusations and confrontations of a court hearing, and instead working together positively in mediation can lay the foundations for a cordial relationship after the separation.
  • Speed: Mediation can often achieve an agreement much more quickly than the legal process – particularly in view of the on-going delays to the court system caused by Covid-19. There will be an initial MIAM to assess whether mediation is a suitable way forward. If there is agreement to proceed then a session or sessions can be arranged as soon as is convenient, and a resolution pursued from there. Even in cases where a full agreement is not possible, mediation will often reduce the length of a subsequent legal process by limiting the number of issues that remain in dispute.
  • Flexibility: Sessions can be arranged around work and childcare commitments and held either in person or online, whichever the parties find more convenient, to ensure that both parties are able to attend and engage fully with the mediation process.
  • Cost: A very practical advantage of mediation is that it is often much cheaper than going to court, particularly important in view of the many other expenses that can result from separation. A MIAM with Wilson Browne costs £200 + VAT per person.

Disadvantages of mediation

  • Mediation is voluntary: While individuals may be legally obliged to consider mediation before applying to the Courts, they cannot be compelled to participate in mediation. This can cause frustration if one party is keen to use mediation and the other not.
  • Not legally binding: A settlement reached in mediation is not legally binding, opening up the risk of either party withdrawing from it at a future date. Nevertheless this can be addressed where there is opportunity of seeking a court order to reflect the terms agreed.
  • A full agreement may not be reached: If some or all of the issues are not resolved then the case may still have to go to court, leading to further expense for the couple. However a least some of the issues in dispute are likely to have been resolved reducing the matters to be litigated over.

Is mediation right for me?

While there are both advantages and disadvantages to mediation, the general view of the legal profession and the government is that separating couples should consider mediation as an option when it comes to settling disputes.

There is also widespread agreement about the importance of choosing the right mediator to guide you through the process. The role of mediator calls for an in-depth understanding of family issues as well as excellent people skills.

As well as providing a safe and impartial environment, the mediator will steer the discussion to ensure all views are heard and items are discussed, provide expert knowledge when required and signpost parties to other sources of specialist help and advice when necessary.

Edward Rawlins, the head of Wilson Browne’s Family Mediation Team, has more than 25 years’ experience in family law. His team has a successful track record of helping individuals resolve disputes by enabling them to work in a constructive and respectful manner.

Our service follows the FMC Code of Practice for Family Mediators to provide a guarantee of our integrity and impartiality

Where can I find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of mediation?

This article has outlined the main arguments for and against mediation.

The best way to decide if it is for you is to contact Wilson Browne to find out more about our family mediation service, which is available at our Northampton, Kettering and Higham Ferrers offices.

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

Edward Rawlins


Edward Rawlins


Ed has over 20 years experience as a specialist advising on situations arising from the breakdown in relationships (marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation) in respect of both children, finances and business assets. He is a member of Resolution and a Law Society Accredited Family Mediator.