This year Family Mediation Week is the 23rd to the 27th January (2017). The aim is to raise awareness of how mediation can help separating families resolve their issues in a collaborative way. January is often a time for reflection and new beginnings and this can mean couples realising their differences cannot be overcome and so decide to separate. Sometimes families have already decided to split but want to wait until after Christmas so as not to disrupt the family festivities where children are involved.
What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation a process in which the participants meet with an impartial and specially trained family mediator and describe their situation to explain what issues they cannot resolve and need to be settled. The idea is to explore the options available and consider ways of reaching agreement on any or all the questions they need to settle.
Mediation can help family members to settle arrangements for children and/or financial and property matters at any stage of separation/divorce, as well as any other family matters. The key to successful mediation is compromise and a desire to reach resolution where both parties feel heard. The participants are helped to reach well-informed decisions, without pressure from each other or from the mediator. Often a mediator can suggest compromises that may not have been thought of and open up new avenues of resolution. When a full and final settlement is needed in divorce proceedings, the terms worked out in mediation can be used as the basis for a consent order. You can read more information on our family mediation page.
How much does Family Mediation cost?
Family Mediation can vary in cost depending on the mediator and where you live. Here at Progressive Mediation in Bristol you can see a breakdown of our costs here.
We provide a free MIAM to everyone – this is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Put more simply it’s a chance for you to meet a mediator to tell them about your situation. Between you and the mediator you can work out if mediation can help you to resolve the issues in your particular situation. This usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour.
Legal Aid for Family Mediation
You also may be eligible for Legal Aid for mediation which means you will receive your mediation partially paid for or completely free depending on your situation. You can find out here if you are eligible for Legal Aid.
What is the process for Family Mediation?
The mediation process can work in various ways. Typically it involves an initial assessment meeting (MIAM) to see if mediation can help you. After that it is usually followed by joint mediation sessions in which you meet face-to-face with the mediators.
Mediators will help you to draw up an agenda of what you need to sort out; possibly how to deal with the family home, a fair division of the assets, how to deal with any debts, financial support, arrangements for the children or access. In order to see a full financial picture for the separating couple, an open statement of financial information will need to be drawn up:
Open Statement of Financial Information – this is based on a complete disclosure of all financial information for all parties involved. It is an essential factual document for any separating couple, which will be required if there is to be a final financial resolution either by legal separation or divorce.
Once the mediation sessions are complete and all parties are happy that they have reached a solution to their issues, a memorandum of understanding can be drawn up.
Memorandum of Understanding – this sets out mutually acceptable proposals for settlement. This document is not legally binding, but it shows all of the issues and possible resolutions that have been arrived at during mediation. Each party may wish to take separate legal advice on the Memorandum of Understanding if they feel it is necessary. Its proposals may be incorporated within a legally binding agreement or form the basis of a Consent Order in divorce.
Using mediation to arrive at mutually acceptable agreements in a non-threatening environment with mediators, will save you money and the stress of possible court attendance.
How do I prepare for Mediation?
In terms of paperwork and documentation, you will need to be able to disclose your finances, including assets, property, income, savings and information regarding any dependants. We have compiled a comprehensive list of what finances need to be taken into account for separating couples. You can read it here.
In terms of mentally preparing for mediation, it is important to remember to keep an open mind, be willing to listen and compromise. For many individuals, the process of splitting up can be a painful one, there may be feelings of anger and hurt towards the other party, but it is important to try to set these feelings aside to focus on reaching a compromise where finances and children are involved. We have a number of blogs where we go into this in more detail:
Can We Help?
Here at Progressive Mediation, we are very experienced in mediating family issues, in particular, separating couples where children are involved. If you are at any stage of separation or divorce and you feel that mediation may help, please do give us a call on 0117 924 3880 and we will be happy to advise you. Remember we provide a free initial assessment meeting (MIAM) for everyone, this is now a requirement before proceeding with an application to the court, to show you have considered mediation.