Divorce & Separation – Mediation
What is Mediation?
Mediation is the use of an impartial person or persons to guide couples in reaching decisions on separation and divorce. It provides an alternative to Court proceedings.
Mediation can deal with separation, divorce, children, property and finance. The benefits of mediation are felt to be that mediation promotes better communication and co-operation between couples; allows the parties involved to control the decisions affecting their lives; helps children by reducing conflict; is confidential and is generally a quicker and more cost effective process than Court proceedings.
Mediation is available for heterosexual and same sex couples.
Below is a short YouTube video about Family Mediation from the Ministry of Justice.
For more information see our Mediation Information Sheet.
Getting Started – Referrals & Legal Aid
A referral can be made direct to a mediation service by a prospective client or clients. Alternatively, a referral can be made via Solicitors.
For financial and children cases, if a person (Applicant) is considering applying for a Family Order against another party (Respondent) there has to be a referral to a Mediator. If the proposed Applicant and/or Respondent are eligible for Legal Aid there will be no charge for the initial meeting (known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). If either the proposed Applicant or the Respondent is not eligible, then there will be a charge made by the Mediation Service, which is set by each individual Mediation Service.
Subject to financial circumstances, legal aid is still available for Mediation. Eligibility for legal aid will be discussed at an initial meeting (which can be with one or both parties). This initial meeting will also discuss whether the parties and the issues involved are suitable for mediation.
Mediation on separation or divorce is undertaken under a specific code of practice usually by a sole mediator but where appropriate with a co-mediator who may be a professional with experience in marital and family work. This provides a supportive professional forum in which a couple can be helped to deal with all issues arising from separation or divorce including the practicalities of separation/divorce; arrangements for children; housing, property and capital adjustments; maintenance and any other issues which either party may raise.
Mediation is generally undertaken with the couple together. Exceptionally (and by agreement with both parties) separate discussions can be held with each party and then the matters discussed brought back into the joint sessions.
In all cases parties will not be required to reach any complete and binding agreements in the mediation without having had the opportunity to review matters with their own solicitors. Summaries of the financial information and of the settlement proposals will be furnished to the parties for this purpose as required.
Mediation sessions generally last one and a half hours each. The number of sessions will depend on the issues; 5 or 6 sessions are not uncommon but more or less may be needed. They may take place at approximately fortnightly intervals or as otherwise agreed. Parties do not need to commit themselves for a fixed number of sessions but can decide at the end of each session if they wish to continue.
Before mediation commences each party will be required to enter into an Agreement to Mediate which will include within the terms and conditions that all matters in mediation will be treated as confidential (unless a child or other person is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm) and that both parties undertake to provide a complete and accurate statement of their financial circumstances.
During the mediation process it is advised that both you and the other party have the benefit of independent legal advice. If you are eligible for Legal Aid in the mediation process then you will be eligible for free legal advice from a solicitor to advise you and assist you during the process and to finalise any agreement reached in mediation.
If and when an agreement is reached, this will be summarised by the mediator in a document usually called a Memorandum of Understanding or a Summary of Financial Proposals which may not be disclosed to a Court. However, the financial information disclosed during the mediation and attached to the Memorandum of Understanding/Summary of Proposals is disclosable. Any agreement reached in mediation is not final and binding.