Reflecting on Mediation

Family Mediation Week takes place from 22 – 26 January this year. It provides a helpful opportunity for both individuals and family practitioners to reflect on the benefits that mediation can bring for those attempting to find resolution at what is surely one of the most difficult and draining times of their lives; the breakdown of a marriage or relationship.

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Big decisions ahead

Not only does the ending of a relationship bring with it a huge emotional challenge, invariably there will be significant financial decisions to be made too, which will impact upon the entire family immensely. There will also be major decisions for a couple to make if they have children, regarding the arrangements for them. We as solicitors often see the real stress and anxiety that a divorcing spouse is faced with when contemplating the future on their own; ‘what will happen to the house?’, they may ask, or fundamentally, ‘where will our children live?’.  Relationships with their soon to be ex-partner may be raw and couples may require assistance in trying to navigate a path through this unknown territory. This is where mediation, coupled with solicitor’s advice, can really assist.

What does mediation entail?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution, meaning that it is an alternative option to going to Court. During mediation sessions, with the assistance of the professionally trained and independent mediator, couples will endeavour to discuss the options available to them, and hopefully reach an agreement in respect of their specific family situation, which is fair and with which both parties are content. The role of the mediator is never to make decisions for the parties but simply to help guide them, by providing information on legal principles they may wish to consider. They facilitate genuine and constructive discussions, giving the parties control of the decision made about their assets, their divorce or their children.

Always best to seek advice

Given that mediators cannot give legal advice, it is fundamental that individuals seek advice from their solicitor upon any agreement or proposals following a mediation session. There may have to be a number of sessions before an agreement can hopefully be reached. If the individuals are able to come to a decision, particularly in respect of their assets, then this will need to be incorporated by solicitors into a Consent Order, to become a legally binding agreement.

Mediation is of course not for everyone. However, it is important to remember that it is an option available for those who wish to attempt to resolve issues themselves, together , rather than asking a Judge to do so for them. 

We have links with a number of Mediation Services and are able to recognise when this option may be beneficial to our clients, make a referral and provide the necessary legal advice to clients going through the mediation process.

For more information on Family Mediation Week, please visit http://www.familymediationweek.org.uk/