Why Consider Mediation?
For many couples mediation offers a quicker, cheaper and more positive way to resolve family issues than the more traditional solicitor-led route. This is true whether the issues relate to children or finances. Certainly, an agreement or understanding reached via mediation can feel more ‘acceptable’ than one imposed on you following bruising court proceedings.
Mediation offers you and your former partner the ability to control the process by which issues are resolved. This control is something that the court process removes. In addition, it is a private and confidential way of working through issues, concerns and grievances. Even if mediation doesn’t lead to a complete settlement, it can resolve some of the issues and lead to a greater understanding of your position.
What Advantages Does Mediation Offer?
Mediation is a flexible process, which starts with choosing and agreeing the mediator to use. You might choose a ‘lawyer mediator’ for the particular insight and expertise that they can bring. Alternatively, a mediator with a more therapeutic background might be helpful, particularly if you are mediating in relation to children.
In addition, mediation also allows you to ‘bring in’ advice from other experts if required, agreed and appropriate (for example, accountants or pension experts etc).
How Does the Mediation Process Work?
People often ask how long the mediation process takes and how many sessions it involves.
In reality, each case is different and the key is that you and your former partner are entirely in control of the process. A good mediator will help you set an agenda and ensure that you work through it.
For some couples this means that, where there is momentum and progress, several sessions (each lasting an hour to an hour and a half) but taking place fairly close together works well. For others, if information needs to be gathered or if they want to take time to take advice about the issues discussed, a longer break between sessions can be preferable. It really is up to you.
Mediation is often most effective where the couple has had the benefit of some preliminary legal advice. However, there is no obligation on either of you to take advice unless you want to. In some (fairly limited) cases, solicitors can be involved in the mediation itself i.e. in the room.
However, this is unusual, as it tends to change the dynamics of the discussion. That said, there is nothing to prevent you (if you’re using solicitors) from having them ‘at the end of the phone’. This would allow you to take advice as the mediation progresses.
The key is not to lose sight of the fact that mediation works best where you are both fairly open minded, ready to listen and to explore potential agreements and solutions which could suit your particular family.
When Should You Consider Mediation?
You can enter mediation at any stage in the legal process. It may be that you are recently separated but have agreed that there will be a divorce. You can enter mediation and agree within it how you are going to deal with divorce proceedings and the exchange of financial information etc.
Alternatively, you may prefer to deal with the preliminary stages of the proceedings and then enter mediation, once the full financial picture is known, in order to work through and agree a settlement.
Mediation is an entirely voluntary process and so, if you agree to mediate and then decide that it isn’t really for you, that’s fine. You can stop the mediation process at any point. However, this is rare as most people report that mediation, whilst challenging, proves to be a more positive experience than they anticipated.
Once in the mediation process, most people see the benefit of working through it in order to reach a negotiated agreement.
The Cost of Mediation
Finally, a key benefit for many people, when looking at mediation, is the issue of cost.
Most mediators charge an hourly rate. The cost of each session can be divided between you both or you can agree that one of you is going to pay. There should be no surprises in terms of the costs – the fees for a session will be clear and the mediator should also outline the cost of preparing any necessary paperwork, for example to record any agreement once reached.
Some couples reach an agreement in one or two sessions, potentially saving substantial sums in legal costs.
Mediation can allow you to avoid the cost of solicitors corresponding with each other on every point and the cost of protracted proceedings. Even for the most straightforward of cases, litigation can result in crippling legal bills.
For families where the overall available assets are modest and likely to be stretched to meet everyone’s needs, high legal bills can be devastating. This makes mediation is an obvious and sensible choice.