National Family Mediation Week: What Can Mediation Do For Me?.

A relationship breakdown is never easy for any individual, especially when someone then needs to consider the next steps with regards to a divorce or making child arrangements. 

The 16 – 20 January 2023 marks National Family Mediation Week, a creation of the Family Mediation Council, to provide “an opportunity to raise awareness of family mediation and of the benefits it can bring to separating families.”

The purpose of this week is to promote to separating couples the consideration of non-adversarial approaches, whereby they can make decisions together and build a positive future for their family. 

But what is mediation? What can it do for you and your family following a breakdown of a relationship? 


Family mediation is a process that involves the separating couple to engage with the assistance of one (sometimes two) impartial mediator(s). This process does not have the aim of fixing or saving the relationship, it serves to help parties deal with the consequences of their breakdown by way of the couple making agreements with each other. 

The mediator will meet with the couple, either together or separately, to help them clarify and resolve their issues. This will usually involve the mediator collecting the couple’s position, and then communicating those positions to the individuals, so there is a general understanding of the couple’s wishes and feelings following the separation. The mediator may then give information and advise them on possible terms they should agree on and potential ways to move forwards, whilst attempting to minimise conflict and hostility. 

A mediator’s background can vary, and be drawn from various professionals such as solicitors; social workers; psychotherapists; counsellors; and mental health professionals. However, accredited mediators will have undergone the necessary special training and will follow the Code of Conduct to ensure all couples receive the same standard of service, regardless of the mediator's background. 

There are a range of benefits for choosing mediation to resolve differences. These include: 

  • Potentially less conflict and hostility. Although there may be some circumstances whereby a separating couple require the full intervention of legal services and the court process, mediation can provide some couples with an appropriate and less conflicting forum to discuss their wishes, which in turn can allow them to resolve their differences in a hospitable environment. A positive effect of such an environment is the reduction of stress on a couple. 
  • Quicker resolutions. The family court system currently has a large backlog of matters which, in effect, causes delay for a couple to reach a final solution to their circumstances. Again, this can create less stress for the couple at an already difficult time of their lives. 
  • Flexibility. Mediators can provide flexibility in how the process should work for a couple and will consider the needs and schedules of that couple. 

Mediation can be used in divorce to resolve the division of matrimonial assets and deal with financial affairs, or it can be used within child arrangements such as when contact should take place between parent and child. If a couple have a child or children aged over 10 years old, they may wish to consider Child Inclusive Mediation, as this would give the child an opportunity to meet with the mediator and express their wishes and feelings following the separation of their parents.  

The mediator will explain that any agreement the couple reach will not be legally binding upon them (therefore the agreement cannot be enforced by a court, and the parties are not legally obliged to follow the terms of the agreement). However, an agreement reached within mediation can then be made into an Order of the court which would then become legally binding on the couple, and they would have to follow the terms of that agreement. Our family law specialists can review such agreements in order to provide individual advice on the fairness of that outcome and/or drafting the agreement into a court document. 

Further, there is currently a ‘Family Mediation Voucher Scheme’ which is designed to support couples who may be able to resolve their family law disputes outside of court. If a couple is eligible, they may be entitled to receive a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation. Further information on eligibility can be obtained from the GOV.UK website.   

Although mediation is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and may not be appropriate for certain relationship breakdowns, there are many ways it can assist separating couples. Most importantly, to find a resolution that works for them and their family, in order to move forwards. 


When a couple are in the process of separating and they wish to obtain a Court Order in relation to Child Arrangements or Financial Remedy, it is important to be aware of the need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (“MIAM”) before making any application to court. Although a MIAM is not required in all circumstances, the courts will not consider such applications without proof of attending a MIAM. 

MIAM is a meeting with the couple, again together or separately, whereby each individual has an opportunity to discuss their situation and the issues that need to be decided. The mediator will then provide information about the process of mediation, they will assess whether the case is suitable for mediation before an application is made in relation to child arrangements/financial arrangements. However, even if the mediator believes the matter could be suitable for mediation, the couple do not have to proceed with the mediation route. 

MIAMs can be attended face to face or virtually and the cost will vary between mediators. However, if an individual is entitled to legal aid then they will not bear the cost of the MIAM. 

Other Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution 

Mediation is not the only possible route for a couple to consider to resolve their differences. 

Collaborative law is another alternative to court proceedings. It is based on a series of round table meetings which involve the separating couple and their respective legal representatives. This process supports couples to achieve solutions for their particular needs, whilst removing the burden of communicating such needs, as their legal representatives will put forward such wishes on their behalf. 

Here at Lanyon Bowdler, we have our very own collaborative lawyer, Lisa Grimmett. Lisa has a wealth of experience within collaborative law and has regularly worked with wealth managers; accountants; surveyors; and barristers to achieve the best outcomes. 

Our team understands and appreciates the difficulties our clients’ face when their relationships end. With our specialism and expertise within family matters, we will be able to advise you of the available options you have in order to move forwards. Our team is always happy to listen to your enquiry and inform you of the services we can provide. 

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