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"Mediation" – what does that mean?

Are you separating from your partner?

Are you having problems agreeing who pays for what?

Are there children involved?

Are you worried about mounting solicitors’ fees?

Are you unable to talk to your partner without getting into an argument?

Have you considered professional mediation?

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process entered into voluntarily by two parties in dispute where a neutral third party will help them to find a solution to their issues in a confidential environment. It aims to find a mutual compromise in which all parties feel that their needs and wishes are being treated fairly and it can be conducted face-to-face or in separate rooms.

Where couples are separating, therefore, the mediator will help the couple to make arrangements for their children, future housing, division of assets, future maintenance etc However, mediation is NOT marriage guidance or relationship counselling. It is not about reconciliation and bringing people back together. If you are concerned about your or your children’s safety, this can be discussed at the initial meeting.

Why should I consider mediation?

When relationships break down, people are often hurt, angry, bitter and confused. This may lead to them behaving unfairly, selfishly or out of character, making it very difficult for the other party to make him or herself heard and understood. Eventually, communication breaks down completely. By talking through an impartial mediator, both parties are given equal opportunity to state their needs and feelings openly, without the risk of aggravating the situation further. The aim of mediation is to resume communication.

Are mediators lawyers?

Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds including family lawyers, Court Reporting Officers (who report to the Court on issues regarding children), Family Therapists etc. They should have been trained by one of the professional bodies who comprise the Family Mediation Council and, if you are seeking public funding, have been assessed as competent to conduct Publicly Funded Mediation by the Legal Services Commission.

Who pays for mediation?

The service is paid for by the parties in dispute. However the costs incurred are significantly less than the cost of going to court. Costs of mediation will, of course, vary from service to service but are unlikely to exceed £1,000 each. The average financial court case takes around six months to complete and could easily cost around £20,000.

Public funding may be available to pay your fees and you will be assessed to see whether you are eligible at the first meeting

Why pay for mediation when I already have a solicitor?

Mediation fees are significantly less than legal fees; mediation reaches mutual agreement faster than going to court; and mediation is considerably less stressful than going to court. What’s more, the work that your solicitor will need to do to implement any settlement reached in mediation will be minimal in comparison.

How can I be sure that mediation is safe?

Anything discussed during mediation must be known to both parties but to no-one else. All negotiations are private and cannot be used in any future court proceedings. At the end of the mediation, you will be provided with a summary of the discussions to give to your solicitor.

Mediation can be undertaken without your partner being present, and children need only seen when it is absolutely necessary.

What is the consequence of not seeking mediation?

If you and your partner cannot come to an agreement over finances and/or arrangements for your children, you may end up in court and incur enormous legal costs – and undergo considerable stress.

Even if your separation is amicable, without a written, formal agreement on children and/or finances, you may face problems or a financial claim by your former partner some time in the future. For example, your former partner may claim a share in an inheritance or lottery win.

Article made available by Lesley Baker of Lambda Mediation

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