Family mediation

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is a structured process in which a qualified mediator helps families who are going though separation or divorce, settle disputes and make joint decisions about the issues which need to be resolved. They take the needs of everyone concerned into account in a safe and confidential environment.

The goal of family mediation is to reach mutually agreed-upon solutions while minimizing the need for lengthy and costly legal proceedings. This process can be used to address a wide range of family-related issues, including property, finance and child-related matters.

The mediation process

The first step in family mediation is to make a referral. You can do this by completing our online referral form, or by contacting the family mediation team.

Once we have your referral form, we will send you some information about our service, and the costs and will invite you to attend your first appointment.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

The first appointment is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). These meetings normally last about 45 minutes and will give you the opportunity to tell the mediator about your situation and the issues you would like to mediate on.

During this meeting, the mediator will explain the mediation process, and assess whether they feel the case is suitable for mediation. They will also let you know if you are eligible for Legal Aid. If mediation is possible, the other party will then be invited in for their own MIAM.

Mediation

When both parties have attended a MIAM, and the mediator is satisfied that it is right to proceed, the service will arrange joint meetings for you both to attend. These family mediation sessions usually last about 90 minutes. During these meetings the mediator provides a safe place to talk and assists in identifying issues for resolution.

Options from each of you will be explored and discussed as to whether they are feasible, fair and realistic. Where financial issues are involved, you will both be asked to provide information about your assets, liabilities, income and expenditure. This information must be provided whether you go through family mediation or through your solicitor and must be supported by relevant documents, copies of which will be exchanged between you.

For financial issues people generally need two to four sessions, to provide information, identify needs and reach proposals. If your concerns are regarding children only, the focus will be on their needs and the mediator will help you look at the options available. This is likely to take one to three mediation sessions. If you need to cover both financial and child related issues, you will need three to five sessions.

For finance issues, once proposals have been agreed, these may be recorded in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ which can be taken forward, often through solicitors, to become a legally binding document. Clients are encouraged to seek legal advice at any stage of mediation if needed.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Family Mediation and ‘Time2Talk’ Intergenerational Mediation?

Mediation Plus offers a number of different services, including Family and ‘Time2Talk’ intergenerational mediation. It is helpful to understand the difference. 

Family Mediation is a chargeable service (Legal Aid and the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme may be available to cover the cost) for couples who are separating or separated. The aim is to support both sides to reach an agreement about property, finance and/or child related issues such as contact arrangements. Mediation is delivered by accredited professional mediators, registered with the Family Mediation Council and is normally faster and cheaper than going to court. 

Time2Talk Intergenerational Mediation is a free service for parents/carers and young people (aged 8-18) who are struggling to communicate with each other. Trained volunteer mediators work with everyone involved to re-build their relationships and to reach an agreement about how to move forward. If parents/carers are in conflict with each other about any issues relating to their children following separation e.g. contact arrangements – it is usually best to resolve this through family mediation before accessing intergenerational mediation. 

If you are not sure what service you need, you are welcome to contact us to discuss this.  

How can children be involved in the family mediation process?

Family Mediators aim to support the children during their parents’ separation. They do not judge or exploit the differences between parents. Parents have equal rights and responsibilities.

A relationship breakdown, family separation, or divorce is hard to come to terms with and children can find their emotions especially difficult to cope with at this time. A child’s divided loyalties can result in confusion, anxiety, sadness and even anger and their behaviour may become quite challenging as a result. This can lead to problems at school, withdrawal from their friends and difficult behaviour at home.

During family mediation, you may be offered the opportunity for a DCC (Direct Consultation with Children). This meeting provides children with a voice in the changes that are affecting them.
Both parents will be asked to provide written permission that they are happy for their child/children to speak to the family mediator on their own. With both parents’ consent, the child/ children will be written to and asked whether they are happy to speak to the family mediator. It is really important that children do not feel pressured to take part or sense that they will be letting their parents down if they refuse to speak to the mediator.

The family mediator will listen to the child, without the parents being present, and reassure them that what they say in the meeting will not be repeated and that they will decide what (if anything) is reported back to their parents. This information will then be shared with the parents at a later mediation session. Most young people seen by mediators want their parents to have feedback via the mediator.

Child-related mediation agreements can have a degree of flexibility and may be adjusted to take into account a child’s changing needs as they reach an age where they want to spend more time seeing their friends, or their interests or hobbies change.

Do I need legal advice?

Mediators are trained to give legal information but not legal advice. It may be helpful to check with a solicitor that what you are agreeing to is fair for you. You can arrange this at any point in the process. A solicitor may advise on legal matters connected with your mediation, or on proposals put forward, can turn any written agreement into a legally binding document/consent order, or assist in preparing court papers.

If you are working to reach agreement through mediation, there is much less need for a solicitor’s time. This means that legal fees can be kept as low as possible. If you are eligible for Legal Aid you can get a small amount of legal advice and your agreement made into a legally binding document for free.

What happens if I need to go to court?

Engaging in mediation does not in any way affect your legal rights. You retain these rights and can ask the court to decide matters on your behalf at any time.

If mediation is not proceeding or you cannot come to an agreement, you may need to apply to the court. You will have to show that you have met with a mediator and considered mediation, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If you have attended a MIAM within the last four months we can provide an official form, signed by the assigned mediator, confirming you have attended a MIAM, to enable you to access court.

We are already in court, can we still try family mediation?

Being in court does not mean that mediation is not possible.

If you have applied to, or are already in court, and you both agree to try mediation, you can ask the court to postpone proceedings whilst you try to sort things out yourselves.

How much would going to court cost compared to family mediation?

Mediation is much less expensive than litigation. Where a case has to go to court, costs can rise to thousands of pounds – and will take much longer to conclude.

The average costs of negotiating child or financial matters in mediation are between £395 and £545 (£695 for all issues) per person.

The comparative cost of using litigation and the court is £5,000 to £10,000 for children issues and a further £5,000 to £10,000 for financial issues.

Can grandparents use family mediation?

After divorce or separation, children often miss contact with members of their extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Grandparents play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren and it’s usually a positive thing if they can stay in touch after there has been a separation or divorce.

While grandparents have no automatic right to be part of their grandchild’s life. Mediation can help reduce conflict between family members after separation or divorce and it is often the best way to resume contact. As a last resort, the court can be approached to make a child arrangement order. This will happen if the court considers it to be in the child’s best interests.

If you feel unable to contact the adults who care for your grandchild/ren, you could approach our service for help. Our experienced staff can explain the process of mediation and discuss with you the best way of inviting your relatives to participate. They will also advise about the costs of mediation, and whether you are eligible for help in meeting these costs.

Mediation is voluntary for all parties. You can’t insist people take part but we can explain that it is a safe place for families to make decisions in the best interests of their children. Mediators are professionally trained. They will help you negotiate with your family and help you to reach a settlement for future relationships with your grandchildren.

Where can I find more information?

You can call us to ask any questions, before you make a referral, or at any time, while we are working with you. You can also visit the Family Mediation Council website, where you will find more information about family mediation in general.

Where will Family Mediation take place?

Mediation can take place in our office in St Leonards on Sea or by video conference (Zoom or WhatsApp)

Charges

As a charity, we keep our fees as low as possible.

If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for free mediation under the Legal Aid scheme and if you are mediating over child-related matters you could be entitled to funding under the Family Voucher Scheme, which is not means-tested.

Get in touch

If you would like to contact Mediation Plus, please use this form.

You can also make online referrals, by visiting our project pages.

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