Mediation is becoming an increasingly popular way for separating couples to resolve disputes, keeping legal costs to a minimum and reducing acrimony.
How mediation works
Mediation differs from arbitration in that the mediator does not impose an outcome, rather the participants are helped to reach a well-informed mutually acceptable agreement. It provides an opportunity for each party to put forward their concerns, needs and views which create a foundation for discussion. A skilled mediator asks questions which guide the parties towards a solution. Where issues relate to financial matters the mediator ensures full and frank disclosure of the finances and encourages the couple to focus on what is best for them and any children.
The mediator is unbiased and cannot give legal advice but a solicitor mediator can share their legal knowledge where it might help. For example, a mediator could provide information about the potential administrative, legal and psychological consequences associated with the removal of a child to another country without the other parent’s consent. This could help a parent contemplating this to reassess the situation.
Mediation takes the form of consecutive meetings of around one and half to three hours long. The number of sessions will vary depending on the circumstances. In some situations like the wrongful removal of a child, where time is of the essence and tensions will be particularly high, mediation could take place in blocks over a couple of days.
Generally mediation takes place face to face with both parties in a room with the mediator but if one or both parties are abroad it could take place through an internet connection.
Often two mediators work together and this can help reassure the participants that they are not on one side or the other.
Once an agreement is reached a consent order can be drawn up which will be stamped by the court and then becomes binding.
Advantages over litigation
Costs savings – Mediation is usually much cheaper than each party using their own solicitor. You are only paying for one professional rather than two and this cost can be split between the parties. In addition, matters are usually resolved much sooner meaning you are paying for far fewer lawyers’ hours.
Reduced acrimony – Parties can take ownership of the process of separation and reach a mutually acceptable agreement rather than having something imposed upon them by the court which neither might be happy with.
For parents who will have to have a continuing relationship with the other parent there is the real advantage of reduced animosity if they have not been in protracted litigation with the other parent.
Speedy resolution – Through mediation most disputes are resolved in about four or five sessions although it could take fewer. In contrast it can take nine months to two years to sort out the finances in financial proceedings through the court. Even if not all the points in dispute can be resolved through mediation if even one can be agreed upon that will be one less to fight about through solicitors.
Flexibility – Mediation is a voluntary process and either party can decide to walk out or to have a break at any time. It is also confidential and mediators will not disclose any information that comes up in mediation to third parties (except in very exceptional circumstances for example where a child is at risk of harm).
Independent solicitor’s advice
Conflict involving two or more countries can certainly be resolved through mediation and in fact, costs and time savings are of particular relevance in such cases. Where the case has an international aspect or concerns the relocation of children however, the legal complexity means it is crucial to take independent legal advice both before and during mediation.
Contact us at [email protected] for advice on how mediation can be used to assist settlement within your family law dispute.