• The breakdown of a relationship can be a distressing and worrying time, particularly if you cannot agree how to divide your assets or care for your children.

    One of the main ways that you can reach an agreement about issues like these is to use mediation.

    Here we answer some of the common questions about this process and its benefits.

    What is mediation?

    Mediation is when an independent third party is brought into a dispute to help both sides come to an agreement.

    It aims to help people resolve sensitive issues in a professional, supportive forum, without the stresses of going through the courts.

    Family mediators can help with issues such as:

    • after separation, where each of you will live and how you will pay bills
    • arrangements for children, for example where they will live and when you will see them
    • financial arrangements for a divorce, such as how you will divide your assets, pensions and debts.

    What happens at family mediation?

    Before the process starts, our team will speak to each of you about what mediation involves. This is a crucial step to ensure you are both clear in your expectations.

    When the sessions take place, you and your partner/ex-partner will meet with a specially-trained mediator to talk through the issues that you need to resolve. You will usually be together in the same room, so that you can hear what each other is saying. However, you can choose not to do this, if you prefer.

    During COVID-19 restrictions, it may be necessary to hold these discussions via a virtual call, rather than in person. Where meetings can be held face-to-face, social distancing and other health and safety measures will be put in place.

    The mediator has to be neutral and impartial in their role, so they cannot give you advice about what you should do. Instead, they will guide the discussion and give you both information about the legal process. The mediator will also let you know if you are moving in a direction that would not get approval from the court.

    Your solicitor can advise you about any solutions which are discussed in mediation. If you wish, your solicitor can be on the end of a phone during the session, or can sit discreetly in the meeting if agreed.

    If you reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding. Your solicitor will then incorporate this into a Consent Order to send to the court.

    How long does divorce mediation take?

    Mediation typically takes between two and four sessions. It can sometimes take six or more, but this is less common.

    How much does mediation cost?

    Our family mediators charge a fixed hourly rate plus VAT, which is split between the two of you, so you’ll know up front how much it will cost.

    Is mediation compulsory in divorce and family law?

    It’s not compulsory to go through the full mediation process we’ve described above.

    However, you can’t make an application to the court for a judge to make a settlement unless you’ve first attended what’s known as a MIAM – a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting.

    This is a meeting with a mediator to give you information about the process, as the court wants to know that you have tried out-of-court options.

    If the mediator decides that mediation is not suitable for you, or the sessions aren’t successful, then you can continue with court proceedings.

    How does mediation help?

    Mediation is not for everyone, but it can help couples who want to keep control of the arrangements they’re making and simply need a little assistance to reach agreement.

    It can be particularly beneficial where children are involved, as it can help to preserve a cooperative relationship between parents.

    If both parties are willing to engage with the process, you and your family can avoid the trauma and cost of prolonged court proceedings.

    What happens if my ex won’t go to mediation?

    The good news is that mediation isn’t the only solution if you wish to avoid court.

    At Brachers, we are committed to delivering alternative dispute resolutions, and we have a team of lawyers who practise collaborative family law.

    This involves you, your partner/ex-partner and your respective lawyers sitting around a table to discuss your options. As you both have your lawyers present, it allows you to have full and open discussions without feeling that either party is at a disadvantage.

    Family arbitration is another way of reaching an agreement without using court. Under this method, the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator who, like a judge, will hear about your situation and give a ruling, known as an ‘award’.

    You must both agree to the process, as once it is started, one party cannot back out without the other’s agreement. You also have to agree at the start to accept the award.

    Even if your partner is determined to settle matters in court, our dedicated family lawyers can work with you to achieve the best outcome for you and your family.

    How to get more advice

    If you’re just starting to research your options, and want a little guidance about how we could help, visit our Family and Divorce section or book a free 15-minute virtual appointment with our team.

    If you’re ready to take the next step you can book a one-hour, fixed-fee consultation with one of our lawyers or complete our no-obligation online questionnaire at any time.

    This content is correct at time of publication

    Can we help?

    Take a look at our Family and Divorce page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you

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