For nearly all separating couples the unavoidable cost of establishing two households instead of one is a formidable prospect. How this cost can be met, and how the children’s living arrangements can best be organised to meet their needs has to be given careful thought. But the cost of achieving a solution to this is hugely variable. In the final analysis, it’s up to you.
If you can reach a sensible agreement around the kitchen table and are able fully to trust one another to put it into practice the cost could be nothing at all. But not many people can do this.
The Ministry of Justice tells us that going to court to sort out finances and other issues in divorce costs on average £4000, whereas resolving things through mediation costs on average £1000. These are broad brush figures that beg all sorts of questions but may help to give a rough estimate. It seems likely that resolving matters by negotiating through solicitors or collaborative law will cost something in between.
I looked at the costs of family mediation in Bristol. As quoted by five services listed on a Google search the average amounted to £150 per person per hour.
At Progressive Mediation our costs are £50 per person per session.
How do we do it?
Not by compromising our professional standards. Family mediation is carefully regulated by the Family Mediation Council. Like all reputable family mediators, we belong to organisations that subscribe to the council and uphold its code of professional practice.
Nor do we lack experience. Frances qualified as a family mediator in 1990 Charles in 2000. Progressive Mediation has been providing family mediation services for more than 15 years. Both of us have experience in related fields, Frances as a family solicitor and Charles in Cafcass, the court welfare service. We do believe, in this field, that there is no substitute for experience.
Nor do we offer less of a service. We offer free individual initial appointments. We don’t charge for letters summarising sessions. Nor do we charge, within reason, for telephone calls and emails between sessions.
In most cases, we co-mediate; two mediators in each session. Our mediation is, therefore gender-balanced; we offer a wide professional perspective on the issues and the best possible assurance of impartiality. Two heads surely are better than one.
So How Do We Do It?
Firstly we do not offer publicly funded mediation – legal aid. Publicly funded services are required by the government to submit to a whole raft of time-consuming and therefore costly procedures and requirements. It is unlikely if you are not eligible for legal aid that you will benefit much from these.
We work from our home. We have a comfortable fully equipped mediation room for roundtable discussions and can make other rooms available if required. You are not paying for high street or city centre offices. Nor are you paying any staff costs except for us, your mediators. Our turnover is low so we are not required to register or charge for VAT. And you can park for free outside our premises!
We work at your convenience. We understand that for most separating couples work, childcare and other commitments impose real constraints on availability. We, therefore, offer appointments during the working day in the evenings and at weekends. Usually, we can offer appointments within days. We are dedicated to providing the kind of service that larger organisations can rarely offer; not least because we really believe in what we are doing.
Of course, mediation is rarely easy. You need to be well-prepared, willing to listen and willing to compromise. You need, above all to set aside all the emotions that the break-up of a relationship may have unleashed, and bring to the table a business-like approach, an eye to the future and to the needs of any children involved. If you can do that we believe that our mediation service offers the most sensible and affordable way of sorting out the issues arising from divorce or separation. That is apart, of course, from your kitchen table!