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Family Mediation

Tags: legal advice, court, mediation, does mediation work, how does mediation work
Content Types: Legal
Categories: Separating

What is mediation?

Mediation is a place for parents to talk about the children, property and finances during and after separation. It is a form of dispute resolution that provides parents a safe place to have an honest and open discussion. Mediation is confidential - anything that you say is private and will not be used in any court proceedings.

Trained family mediators are non-judgemental and impartial; they do not tell you what to do – you remain in control of decision making. They will support you to find the best solutions for everyone.  

Does family mediation work?

Mediation works best when parents want to find a way forward and sort things out. Research has found that people who use the sessions to resolve their disagreements come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than if they use solicitors and go to court. What’s more, family mediation reduces the on-going conflict.

You can choose to have a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting alone or together with your ex before you proceed with mediation to check if it is right for you. If you use mediation it does not stop you using court later if it does not work. If you are thinking of going to court to settle issues to do with money, property or arrangements for children, you must usually have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting first.

How much does it cost and how many meetings will I need?

Prices vary but if you are on a low income you may qualify for legal aid which makes mediation free. The number of meetings you need depends on the number of issues that need to be resolved and their complexity. For example, issues about contact can take between one or two meetings. If you need to discuss property and financial issues as well, you could need three to five meetings.

Will the mediator give me legal advice?

Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you legal advice. You can always take legal advice about an agreement you've reached in mediation before you make it final.

I don’t trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it’s not legal. Wouldn’t it be better to go straight to court?

Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. However, experience shows that agreements voluntarily made are more likely to reflect children’s and parents’ needs than court orders and therefore are more likely to last. It also helps to improve understanding, to restore communication and build trust. Agreements made in mediation can be used as the basis of a court order if necessary. In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a Memorandum of Understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a Consent Order.

Before you start court proceedings over money, property or arrangements for children, the court will expect you to have considered using mediation. (See MIAM)

What if I feel pressured to agree to something that I’ll regret later?

Although the mediator will provide encouragement you will not be pressured into agreeing anything. You are in charge of decision making. If you are discussing property and financial issues it is recommended that you obtain legal advice on your proposals before you finalise them.

Who else will be in the meeting?

Apart from the mediator, only the parents are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have a supporter or a legal advisor present at a meeting but both parents would need to agree to this.

Can the children be included?

Some mediation services offer children the opportunity to be included in the process. Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them.

There’s no point – we’ll never agree.

It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible if your previous attempts have failed. Mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. There is nothing to lose in trying.

He/she’s better at negotiating than I am, I’m not sure I’ll be able to put my point across.

Mediators are trained to make sure that both parents views are heard and understood. They do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other. 

I don’t think my ex will come

Mediation is voluntary so people can’t be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your ex explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet him or her alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using the service.

For further information and advice about family mediation visit National Family Mediation (NFM) or the mediation helpline

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