What is family mediation?
Family mediation is the process in which an independent and professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex-partner to resolve issues arising from your break up. These issues could range from:
- Arrangements for the children
- Financial concerns, such as savings, debts, and pensions
- Child maintenance
Mediators are neutral, so they will not take sides. Their job is not to tell you or your ex-partner what to do, but simply to provide a safe forum and to provide help and support as the two of you work through the practical issues of your break up.
Benefits of family mediation:
- More say as to what happens
- Less stressful for you and your ex-partner
- Less likely to lead to conflict
- Not as upsetting and damaging on children
- Potentially quicker and cheaper than a long court battle
Why use family mediation?
Family mediation is usually much cheaper than going to court. The process is also more successful than court judgements, with both parties much more likely to stick to agreements arrived at through mediation than they are through the courts. This is because when both sides have had an input into the decisions made they generally feel happier about the outcome.
If your case goes to court then you and your former partner will not have a say in major decisions, such as arrangements for children or how much is paid in child maintenance. These huge issues will simply be taken out of your hands by a judge who only knows you on paper. You will have to abide by any judgements the judge makes, regards of whether or not one or both of you are unhappy with the decision.
The seriousness of the outcomes of any court case is why most judges will simply refuse to hear a case that has not first been through family mediation, though there are exceptions, such as domestic abuse. These days it is usually a legal requirement to attend a MIAM before going to court to obtain a divorce.
The first step: Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
The first step of the mediation process is to have a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is essentially just a meeting between you and a mediator (your ex-partner is not normally present for this first meeting) in which they outline how the mediation process works and you express what you would like to achieve.
Family mediation is not about trying to get you and your former partner to stay together. Mediators are merely helping you to sort through what happens after you break up.
It's worth noting that while a court can order you to attend a MIAM, they will not actually force you to mediate. Mediation is a voluntary process. However, if children are involved, then mediation is especially important, because if you simply go to court without attending mediation, you run the risk of not gaining the arrangments you would like, or perhaps being lumbered with unfavourable child maintenance payments.
After the MIAM, you and your ex-partner will dictate how long the process will then take. If both of you are highly-motivated to hammer out the details quickly, then mediation might only take 3-4 sessions, but if there are stumbling blocks then this process might take longer. The timetable is entirely dependent on what you and your ex-partner are happy with.
Family mediation is covered under Legal Aid (paid by the government), and so your mediation could end up being free. You will need to bring any relevant documentation to the first MIAM meeting so that the mediator can assess whether or not Legal Aid covers the cost of your mediation.
Even if you don't qualify for Legal Aid, family mediation is substantially less expensive than going to court. According to the National Audit Office (figures from 2012):
- Average cost in non-mediated cases was £2,823
- Average cost for mediated cases was £675
The average cost of savings when choosing mediation over court was £2,148.
About family mediators
Mediators are impartial facilitators who assist you and your former partner to make the difficult decisions that need to be made after a break up. If you have recently broken up with a partner and need legal advice, our Oratto member lawers can give you expert help on family mediation and divorce.