It’s widely recognised that separation and divorce is one of the hardest life experiences to undergo. The combative, challenging environment of a Court can make these stresses worse, while also costing a considerable amount of money.
However, there is an alternative – and that alternative is mediation. With proper support from your lawyer, mediation can help separating partners negotiate and manage their issues and differences in a calm, productive and collaborative manner. Any agreement that is reached will be far better than having a decision imposed on you by a Court, and will cost far less.
What does mediation involve?
• A neutral facilitator, known as a mediator.
• Confidential discussions that are ‘without prejudice’. This means that they will not be used in any subsequent Court proceedings and cannot be reported in the press.
• A focus on finding solutions that work for both parties and, where dependent children are involved, that are “child-centred”.
• Flexibility in how the discussions are undertaken. If the parties are not comfortable being in the same room, the mediator will practice “shuttle mediation”. The mediator’s goal is always to find common ground between the parties.
What does mediation cover?
There is no question that cannot be mediated upon. Finances, property allocation and child residency are all issues that can be resolved via mediation under the guidance of a skilled mediator. Different issues can often be considered in the same mediation session. This differs from the Court route when each separate issue is likely to be considered in separate sets of proceedings.
How long does mediation take?
There are several ways of mediating. Separating couples most commonly choose the ‘Family Model’. This would involve them seeing their mediator for around 3-5 sessions, each lasting around two hours. More complex cases or those for which the parties are keen to seek a rapid solution may be dealt with via mediation taking place over a single day or over consecutive days. The parties’ lawyers may be present at various points during the mediation if required, or the parties will be sent away after a successful session to take legal advice on the agreements reached so far.
Mediation: the benefits
Individuals who experience mediation as part of the separation and divorce process often report feeling a greater sense of empowerment over the decisions that are taken than those who go straight to court. They also report feeling better equipped for co-parenting, thanks to the information-sharing skills and collaboration that mediation can foster. Moreover, mediation allows for situations to evolve and change: the separated couple can revisit their decisions at a later date and agree to revise them without the need for a Court order. Finally, anecdotal evidence suggests that separating couples who choose mediation are more likely to remain on friendly terms post-divorce.
Are mediation agreements legally binding?
Mediators are not Lawyers, and the discussions within mediation are referred to as being ‘Without Prejudice’ meaning they cannot be relied upon in Court. The positive of this is that people can say exactly how they feel and not worry their comments will be used against them int the future should mediation not work. The negative is that mediation agreements are not legally binding, which means they cannot be enforced in a Court. In financial matters many parties choose to use their mediation agreement to form the basis of what is called a ‘consent order’ a formal document distilled from the mediation agreement by a lawyer which is signed by the parties and submitted to Court for approval by a Judge. This brings certainty, as a final order is exactly that, as it dismisses any further financial claims in the future. In most other circumstances it would be prudent to ensure that your lawyer examines the proposed terms of a mediation agreement.
How can we help?
At CJ Law, we are proud to be members of Resolution. As such, we are very much in favour of lawyer-supported mediation and will help our clients to take advantage of this option wherever possible. If you would like to talk through your particular circumstances, please contact Shane Flannery on 0161 975 1900 for a confidential discussion.