By Louise Martin, Solicitor, Director & Family Mediator

Recent figures released by the MOJ indicate that family mediation is on the rise. Why might it be that more people are turning to this form of dispute resolution to help them with their family law issues?

The pandemic has taken its toll on us all, and it will unfortunately be the case for some couples that it has led to the end of their relationship, and the need to resolve arrangements for their children, perhaps, or the finances arising from their relationship or marriage breakdown.

Perhaps where tensions have been frayed already, or the issues are complicated, or maybe due to problems around communication, one or both parties may decide that they need help resolving the issues arising from their relationship breakdown.

For most people, contemplating court proceedings is daunting. Added to this, are the changes, uncertainty and delays which the pandemic has lay upon the system. HMCTS tell us that they are now at pre-covid levels for family work which is, of course, good news. However, we do now face a different way of working, where more and more we see Judge’s considering the issues at paper hearings without the parties in attendance, and long delays in listing hearings that require live evidence in the court room.

We are, therefore, looking for other ways to resolve these issues. Family mediation is a clear alternative.

It is a requirement, other than in a handful of cases, to attend a mediation first appointment, known as a MIAM, to qualify to make an application to the family court in respect of child arrangements, or in respect of resolving finances on divorce. The purpose of that meeting is to get more information and an assessment for mediation. If it is suitable, the mediator will invite the other party to the MIAM, and thereafter joint sessions. If it is not suitable, or both parties are not willing to engage, the mediator can give the client a certificate enabling them to make their application to court.

So, why might family mediation work for you? There are many reasons.

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You call the shots

The family mediator is a facilitator and plays an important role in managing and guiding the discussions that the couple have between them. The mediator is not the judge and will not impose their judgment, but will instead work with the couple in a neutral way.

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Discussions are without prejudice & confidential

This gives opportunity for frank discussion, to lay the cards on the table, so to speak, and to get to the real issues. Sometimes, the stumbling blocks to reaching certain outcomes, can be something else entirely.

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You dictate the pace

There are no court timetables to adhere to, and you can move as quickly or slowly as you like, diaries permitting.

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It’s voluntary

An important feature of mediation is that it is entirely voluntary. Both parties come to the table freely and willingly, or not at all.

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It’s cheaper than court

It is widely considered that family mediation is cheaper than the host of legal costs that can come with instructing solicitors and counsel, paying court fees etc.

Family mediation will not always be suitable for everyone, and the mediator will determine suitability at the MIAM. It may also be helpful to combine mediation with getting legal advice, as the mediator will not provide legal advice to the parties.

Louise Martin trained as a Resolution mediator in 2016 and has established a private mediation practice at Onions & Davies Ltd during that time. She is skilled in family law enabling her to help mediation clients reach outcomes for the benefit of themselves and their families. For an appointment with Louise, or to discuss mediation further, please telephone Sharon on 01630 411226.