Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding method of resolving disputes. You can use it widely in a variety of situations, including separation and divorce. Using separation or divorce mediation can be a very positive way of resolving family law disputes.
You can use the court system for your separation or divorce. But this means leaving final decisions about major issues such as custody, maintenance and the family home to a judge. Using separation or divorce mediation allows couples to come to agreement themselves, with the help of expert support. This support can include e.g. financial advisers or child experts, who can meet with children informally to give advice and feedback.
How Does Using Divorce Mediation Work?
A separated couple can attend with a trained Mediator, who will help the couple to reach a solution to the various matters involved in their separation. Mediation usually focuses on the issues which are a priority for the individual couple. If they are parents, children will be the priority. Other issues to focus on include financial support and the family home.
Using mediation does NOT mean that you must sacrifice expert legal advice to protect your interests. In fact, it’s best to get legal advice in conjunction with attending mediation – ideally before the mediation starts. This legal advice can be used to support you at intervals throughout the mediation process, as required. The legal advice works in support of the individual client, within the process. It can also help guide the mediation to a successful conclusion.
The Role of the Mediator
The mediator is a neutral third party who will assist the couple over a few meetings. These meetings will address the issues, step by step, as agreement is progressed. The mediator does not take sides.
He or she will ensure that each partner has their say. They will foster an atmosphere of co-operation, so both partners can work together to resolve often difficult emotional issues. Ultimately, they help couples reach an agreement that they both feel is fair and workable.
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?
Separation and divorce mediation normally involves between 3 and 6 one-hour sessions. If the mediation is successful, the Mediator will draw up a Mediated Agreement which the couple will sign. However, this is not legally binding until it is converted into a formal Separation Agreement.
Until that time, all discussions and proposals within the mediation process are “without prejudice”. This means that they are private and confidential. They cannot be discussed outside the process or later used in court.
Once the mediated agreement is signed, your solicitor uses it as the basis for drafting a formal legal agreement. You solicitor may also make additional tweaks on minor legal points, if necessary. This part of the process can take on average about 2 months.
Does It Cost Less to Use Mediation for Divorce?
Going to court is costly, time consuming and stressful. If you use your solicitor to support you in a mediation process, this normally involves an average of 3-4 direct hours of contact. There is also additional time for drafting the agreement. There is a huge difference if your case goes to court and is fully contested. This will take hundreds of hours of work for your solicitor, so there’s a substantially higher cost.
In terms of using a mediator, there will be professional costs involved if you use a private professional. However, you can also use the Family Mediation Service, which is free. Click here to read more about this service.
Leaving aside the issue of financial cost there is a human cost too. When you go to court, your solicitor can support you and help you make your case on issues such as custody, maintenance and financial assets. But ultimately, the final decisions lie with the court. So, you have more control using a mediation process than by using the court route alone.