- Is Mediation compulsory?
No. Mediation is not compulsory. Since April 2014 it is compulsory for people who are divorcing or separating and who want to make an application to the court about their children or finances to attend an initial meeting (or MIAM) with a Family Mediator before using the courts. This is for them to find out whether mediation may be suitable for them. (Exceptions are made in a few cases for example where there has been domestic violence.) However if after this initial meeting either of the couple do not wish to mediate then Mediation will not proceed. The government is keen to encourage people to mediate because it is quicker and cheaper than using the courts. Mediation also helps minimise conflict between couples separating. There is no longer any legal aid for divorce cases to go to court, many people on low incomes will be eligible for legal aid for Family Mediation.
- What is a MIAM?
A MIAM is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. It is the first meeting between a client and Family Mediator, and the purpose of the meeting is for the Mediator to find out what the client wants to resolve, and to explain how the Mediation process works. If the client might be eligible for legal aid, the Mediator can calculate this based on the client’s income, for which they need to bring proof to the meeting. MIAMs tend to last between half an hour and an hour and usually separating couples attend them as individuals. Progressive Mediation gives free MIAMs.
- How many Mediation sessions will we need? And how long will Mediation take?
This is a hard question to answer because it depends on the complexity of your family, your finances, and how willing you both are to negotiate with each other. Some couples complete Mediation in one or two hour-long sessions. Others take up to five or six. Sometimes the sessions are spread over a period of 6 months or more because couples need time to gather all the relevant financial information, other couples can fit their sessions into a few weeks.
- Who will be in the Mediation session aside from myself and my partner?
At Progressive Mediation we usually use a co-mediation model, so two Mediators will be present for the Mediation session.
- Will the Mediation session be recorded? Can things I say in mediation be used against me later in court?
No. Mediation meetings are not recorded. They are confidential and ‘Without Prejudice’. Nothing said in Mediation can be used against you in court. At the end of each Mediation meeting we write you a letter with a summary of what was discussed. Again this letter is confidential and ‘Without Prejudice’. Sometimes during Mediation we complete an Open Financial Statement – a formal document describing all the couples financial assets, liabilities and income. This is based on fact, and supported with documentary evidence, so can be used later in court.
- How do I know the Mediation process will be fair and the mediator will be unbiased?
Mediators are trained to be neutral and impartial. Their role is not to make judgements about who is right or wrong, but to help both parties come to an agreement which works for them. The co-mediation model helps us ensure impartiality.
- What if I am still not happy with the arrangements that are reached for the children?
If you are unhappy about the arrangements for your children, and have been unable to reach an agreement you are happy with in Mediation, you can then think about making an application to the court. The Mediator will sign a form to confirm that you have tried Mediation before using the court.
- What happens if I say something in Mediation and later change my mind?
That’s fine. The point of Mediation is to discuss all sorts of options to see if they work for you. We usually give clients plenty of time to think about the options that have been raised. If you change your mind about an option this cannot later be brought up in court and used against you. At the end of Mediation we often draft a Memorandum of Understanding. This is a good faith agreement between two parties, but it needs to be taken to a Solicitor to be made legally binding.
- I’m worried that the mediation session will escalate to a shouting match as my ex-partner is very angry and aggressive. How will this be prevented?
Mediators are trained to stop this from happening. If they feel that emotions are running high, and that couples are not communicating constructively they will call a halt to the proceedings. They may ask everyone to take short break before resuming, or they may end the session then and there. Where Mediators or clients feel that there is a high level of anger of anxiety they sometimes arrange for what is called ‘Shuttle Mediation’ whereby parties are in separate rooms and the Mediators shuttle between them. This is however much slower and harder than negotiations in the same room.
- I’m worried my ex will not turn up to the mediation session we have agreed. Will I still have to pay if they don’t turn up?
No. At Progressive Mediation we do not charge cancellation fees. If you turn up to a meeting, but your ex does not we will not charge you for the session.
- I’m worried about the amount of financial information that I need to declare. I have hidden savings for the children which I do not want my ex-partner to get their hands on.
In order to reach any kind of legally binding financial settlement you will need to declare all of your financial assets. This is true whether you use solicitors, the court or Mediation. If you have savings that you have ear-marked for the children, you may want to transfer them into the children’s names. You may be surprised to discover that your ex is happy for this money to be kept for the children’s benefit.
- Is what we agree in mediation then set in stone? What happens after mediation? Do we still need a solicitor?
Nothing agreed in Mediation is set in stone until it is made legally binding. What happens after Mediation depends what you want. We sometimes write a summary letter confirming what you have agreed. This isn’t legally binding or set in stone, it is simply written confirmation of the agreement you made. Other couples want a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a more formal written document, but again not legally binding. Many couples then choose to take the Memorandum of Understanding, along with any Open Financial Statement to a Solicitor to be converted into a legally binding Separation Agreement or Consent Order as part of divorce proceedings.
- Our children are adopted, does this change the mediation process for their arrangements?
- How is mediation different to arbitration?
Arbitration involves a neutral third party hearing your dispute and making a decision or judgement about it. In Mediation we do not issue judgements or make decisions for you. We enable you to negotiate with each other and come up with an agreement which works for you both.
- My spouse has moved abroad. Can we mediate via skype or conference call?
Yes. It is possible. Your ex-partner may feel that it is harder for him to communicate this way, but if it is the only option it is certainly worth trying.