What is Family Mediation?
When a couple separate, whether or not they are married, there will be issues they have to resolve.
If the couple are married they will need to decide whether they want to divorce right away or make interim arrangements and deal with divorce proceedings later.
They will also have to consider financial arrangements. The legal position for married couples and those in civil partnerships differs significantly to the legal position for unmarried couples. If the couple are married a financial claim may involve a transfer of property, payment of lump sums and sharing of pensions.
In addition if they have children they will have to decide:-
- Who the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent
- Where the children will live and if the couple own a property whether the property is retained for the children or sold and the proceeds divided
- An appropriate amount of child support to be paid if they do not want to use CMS to manage payment.
The first decision that all separating couples have to make is how they are going to deal with these issues. For some they will be able to discuss these matters and come to arrangements with which they are both comfortable although they may need is to formalise the arrangements in due course so that they can both rely on what they have agreed going forward.
Sadly for many couples the emotional fallout from the breakdown of their relationship means it is too difficult for them to have these discussions without some third party intervention. The couple might wish to obtain individual support from a solicitor but some couples may wish to resolve matters themselves albeit they may need some limited assistance. Mediation may be the process that suits them best. In the mediation process the couple retain control over the agenda, the things they want to talk about and ultimately the arrangements they want to make. The mediator’s role is to help the couple deal with the discussions they need to have. The mediator can provide them with information about the legal process as this is always in the background and may be their final destination if they cannot resolve matters through mediation.
The mediator will help the couple identify the issues and in relation to financial issues what information they need to provide so that they can engage in informed discussions about the financial arrangements they will have to make. It will be for the mediator to ensure that both parties have a good and clear understanding of their financial circumstances especially where one of the couple starts with much more information than the other.
The mediator must remain impartial and where the power in a relationship rests with one of the couple they must ensure that power is balanced so that both parties can effectively and actively participate.
The mediator can help by offering different options which the couple could explore. Once the couple have agreed the arrangements which they might wish to make going forward the mediator can help them consider these arrangements carefully to ensure that they will meet everyone’s needs and that the arrangements are achievable. The mediator will not tell the couple what they should do but will let the couple know if he or she believes they are moving in a direction which would not secure the approval of the court.
Once arrangements have been agreed the mediator will, if requested, produce a summary of both the information the couple have provided and a summary of the arrangements they have agreed they will make. These summaries can then be taken to the couple’s individual lawyers so that, if necessary, the agreement can then be formalised.
Mediation is not for everyone. However for couples who want to retain control of the arrangements they will make going forward but who simply need a little help the process can be really useful.
Where children are involved the parents will need to continue to work together for the benefit of their children. Court proceedings can very easily make a bad situation worse. In my experience mediation works well to help preserve a relationship between parents which will benefit the children in the future.
Mediation can be challenging for separating couples but can provide them with arrangements which benefit the family and help them avoid the trauma and cost of prolonged litigation.
If you think this process might be helpful for you please contact Mark Leeson. Mark trained as a mediator and is accredited by the Family Mediators Association (FMA)