Family Mediation

Usually, people come to Family Mediation when they have a serious disagreement that they cannot resolve themselves, most often it happens during the divorce or separation process.

There are many important questions to answer and many decisions to take but often the emotional state of all the parties involved don’t allow them to agree.

During the Mediation process a professional mediator helps parties to build a bridge connecting your current situation and your future life, mediation helps to make agreements that are fair to all parties involved.

It is important to remember that it’s up to the parties to consider how much they want to say, what issues they want to discuss and what agreements to make - the mediator is responsible for the conduct of the process.
Mediator follows the code of practice and cannot be biased in favour of one party or the other.

Mediation is voluntary which means it is up to every participant to choose if to take part in it or not. It is also a confidential process - the contents of discussions are confidential and cannot be disclosed to anyone. Confidentiality could only be broken in exceptional circumstances.

Family Mediation begins with individual Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (each up to 45 minutes on average) and continues with joint sessions where all identified issues are discussed.

Helping to make agreement possible

Outcomes of Family Mediation could be recorded in different ways:

Helping to make agreement possible

Mediator’s role

The family mediator is responsible for the mediation process — the organisation of a safe environment for both participants to speak freely, being able to exchange information and focus on the future. The mediator makes sure everyone has an equal chance to speak and to be heard.

Together we explore current issues and options for the future to enable participants to make informed decisions that work for the family children and for both ex-partners.

When participants discuss important areas of their life the mediator navigates them via asking questions and making sure that every decision went through a reality check and that parties understand what their mutual expectations are.

During Financial Mediation the mediator checks all disclosed information together with participants making sure there are no informational gaps. She/he also organises data in a way that there is a clear picture of the assets, expenditures and income of every party, which makes it less challenging to make financial decisions about the future.

Family Mediator does not give you advice or take sides — all decisions belong to participants. Though Mediator helps to identify questions when seeking legal or financial advice is beneficial.

How Mediation Works

We can say that mediation is a peaceful way of resolving conflict. As humans we cannot completely avoid conflict, what matters is how conflict is managed. Mediation offers a sustainable way of dealing with conflict — the mediator holds an impartial and balanced position between the participants and can help participants work out solutions instead of fighting, giving up or accepting unsatisfactory compromise.

Family Mediation consists of a series of individual:
Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
To start with the mediator meets with every party individually at the MIAM and each participant can describe the situation they are in, ask questions and identify issues she/he wants to discuss during joint sessions. Individual meetings are confidential and all discussions between the mediator and one of the parties are not disclosed to the other party.

The individual meeting usually lasts around 45−60 minutes.

An important part of the MIAM is the assessment of the situation by the mediator when he/she has to identify if there is any reason to consider mediation inappropriate (Domestic Violence issues and any evidence of proceeds of Crime Act). If mediation is suitable the mediator will then contact the other party and invite them to attend their MIAM.

If mediation is not appropriate or if one or both parties are not willing to mediate, the mediator can issue a MIAM certificate. This is proof that the parties have attended the MIAM and will be required should you wish to issue a court application.
Joint Sessions
If both parties decide to use mediation to resolve their issues and the family mediator is happy to proceed, then the participants are invited to attend joint sessions, which usually last around 90 minutes.

Typically 3−5 sessions are needed to resolve the issues though it depends on the case.

At the beginning of the first joint meeting, the mediator speaks about the issues identified during individual sessions and participants decide what should be discussed first. The mediator helps parties:
• to explore the issues by making sure each participant has time to speak and to be listened to;
• to acknowledge their emotions;
• to manage open conflict.

In a situation when one party takes control over the discussion the mediator’s role is to apply ground rules and manage the imbalance of power in the room. The mediator stays impartial and helps participants to develop options without putting them as a solution.

In a situation when legal advice is needed the family mediator will flag it out to the parties and they can individually seek it between sessions. That helps to take informed decisions at the next joint meeting.

At the end of every joint session, the mediator summarises all discussed issues to check with each participant that they agree on them.

As soon as the first joint meeting takes place all information is shared with all participants of the process; for example, if one of the parties emails the mediator and asks a question, the answer will be sent to both parties.
Helping to make agreement possible

When Mediation Works

Family Mediation could be used to sort out various issues which could be combined into two big groups — Child Arrangement and Financial Arrangements. Some people come to discuss only Child Arrangements, some — only Financial Arrangements, though both are closely interconnected and often discussing questions regarding how much time a child will spend with each parent brings us to discuss financial arrangements between parents.

Mediation is not always possible or appropriate and does not always produce an agreement, there are many cases where a court process may be needed instead or as well as mediation.

‘'Green light'' for mediation:
  • you want to reach an agreement; preferably sooner than later
  • you would like to preserve the relationships involved in the conflict
  • you want to retain control of the outcome rather than have to accept a judge’s ruling
  • you don’t want to spend your time and money on litigation
  • you feel that if some misunderstandings are cleared out the agreement could be reached and be satisfactory to all parties involved
Helping to make agreement possible

Family Mediation and Children

Family mediation puts children first and encourages cooperation between separated parents. Putting children first means that it’s their interests and

needs that are most important when child arrangements and financial arrangements are being discussed.

Both parents have equal responsibilities to take care of their children and multiple research shows that the best results in co-parenting are achieved when parents focus on what is best for their kids.

Divorce affects children’s lives a lot — they lose daily contact with at least one of their parents; live through many conflicts; often feel guilty because that is how children’s psychology works; sometimes have to act as adults to support their parents etc. It is important for a child’s well-being to have a voice in what is happening to him/her — they want their parents to listen to them and take account of their views and feelings. When children are asked what would have helped them, they nearly always say that they needed more explanation and reassurance. Parents need to try their best and hear their kids.

Mediation helps parents to work out an agreed explanation appropriate to the age of the child.
Also, Family Mediation has a tool to make sure children have a voice in all the discussions — it’s called Child-Inclusive Mediation (CIM) when a specially trained mediator invites a child or children of the family to a mediation session and in an age-appropriate manner has a discussion with them about what is happening in the family and what their thoughts are. Children usually are willing to share how they see the process and what they would like their parents to change. At the end of the session, children decide which part of the meeting they would like their parents to know about.
Helping to make agreement possible

Family Mediation and Finance

One of the key areas to discuss for separating married couples is finance. There are five main issues to look at during the mediation process:

  • Family home and other assets
    Mediation helps to decide what to do with the family home. There are multiple options available — to sell and divide; transfer into the name of one person with or without charge, or keep it in both names until a special event. If the family home is rented, it needs to be decided how the tenancy will be transferred to one of the parties. Other assets include second family homes and buy-to-let properties; bank accounts and saving schemes; valuable home contents and cars; insurance policies.
  • Pensions
    Dealing with a pension during a divorce is complicated and often requires help from an independent financial adviser. There are different strategies available — offsetting pension funds, getting a pension sharing order, and getting a pension attachment order. Mediation helps to look at a pension from a wider perspective of total assets and take a fair decision working for all involved.
  • Debts
    It includes mortgages, credit cards and bank loans. It is important to openly discuss these items and make an informed decision on how all of them will be covered.
  • Child Maintenance
    The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) provides a calculator that will enable you to establish what the law says should be paid, but separated parents are encouraged to agree on arrangements themselves without having to rely on CMS involvement.
  • Spousal Maintenance
    Rather often one of the separating partners is not in a situation where they can cover all their day-to-day needs straight after divorce, having kids to look after makes it more complicated. Mediation can help ex-partners to discuss what kind of spousal maintenance is fair and for how long the support will be provided.

There are no strict legal guidelines on how assets and liabilities should be shared. It is important to provide Full Financial Disclosure — when every party provides all documents illustrating their current financial situation, with the help of a mediator parties will be able to look at the current financial situation and take informed and fair decisions on how they would like it to look in the future.