How Can Family Mediation Help Couples Through Separation?

Whether you are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship or a marriage, family mediators can help you and your family through this difficult time.

Mediators help individuals produce a mutual agreement that will benefit both individuals. It is designed to help people focus on the future, once their separation has been finalised.

Couples find family mediation extremely comforting as mediators are completely impartial and unbiased. Instead of telling you what is right for you, mediators work with you to reduce any stress or conflict, assisting you to make your own decision. Individuals will be given the same amount of time to work through their stresses and problems. A mediator will only intervene if they feel any children’s needs or feelings are not being considered.

Mediation usually occurs in three stages; the initial meeting, working progress meetings and a final proposal meeting.

In the initial meeting you and your partner will meet with a mediator and discuss any issues you wish to resolve during the process. Your mediator may advise you to seek other help during this period, including financial or child support.  You can see a lawyer at any time during the mediation process. At this initial stage, you will also have to agree on times and dates when you both are willing to attend meetings. Compromise is a large part of mediation, so it’s beneficial to start with an agreement on meeting times.

During the sessions you will work through your issues with the mediator and try to find solutions that suit both of you. Talk about what your main concerns are and what you fear the most. Mediators will assist you during your own personal solutions to the issues you raise. Within the meetings you will both be working on a Mediation Summary, which is legal document stating what you each agree to stick to after your separation.

Once you have finalised the proposals which you both find acceptable, a copy will be sent to each of the party’s lawyers. If your proposals are approved by your lawyers, they will convert the proposals into a legal binding contract.

The first step towards family mediation will be contacting a solicitor who will set the ball rolling. Your solicitor will ask you and your partner to attend the initial meeting where you will meet your mediator. They will explain the whole process to you, giving you time to ask any questions or raise any queries. During this meeting, it will allow you and your partner to decide whether mediation is the right path for you.

If you do decide to go-ahead with the mediation process, you will attend a number of these sessions until you complete your Mediation Summary.

If you would like more information on family mediation, contact family law solicitors – Burt Brill and Cardens.

5 traps to look out for in a Separation Agreement

A Separation Agreement is a signed document between couples who do not wish to live together any longer. The document is designed for couples who do not wish to legally end their marriage or civil partnership. Therefore, the document is not classed as a divorce; rather it is a legally binding agreement that can be used as evidence to establish the terms of a future divorce petition.

The Separation Agreement sets out responsibilities that need to be considered including financial arrangements, property and arrangements for any children involved.

The Separation Agreement is vital as it governs the responsibilities of both parties after the divorce. This form of separation is favoured by many couples wishing to end their marriage or partnership because it is easier for both parties to understand what has been agreed and what is expected of one another. Once legally finalised, the agreement is between you and your previous partner. As the document is legally binding, it means the both parties can sue each other if they breach the agreement.  Couples who wish to separate are highly recommended to agree to a written agreement as it reduces the risk of disputes in the future. The Separation Agreement helps couples avoid going to court to settle any disputes in the future.

Below are 5 common considerations that get neglected in the agreement which are vital to include:

Child Visitation

While most Separation Agreements schedule normal visitation  on a daily basis, some couples forget to form agreements on special holidays throughout the year, for example Christmas/ New Year, birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. To avoid disputes during these holidays in the future, which may cause distress for the children, it is important to include a visitation schedule for special holidays that each party agrees on.

Incorporation and Merger

Understand the ‘Incorporation and Merger’ clause of the Separation Agreement. If the document fails to merge into the judgement of divorce, the agreement will be an independent contract making it more difficult to modify in the future.  In the agreement, you have the option to merge some provisions, but not all of them. It is recommended that you consult a solicitor to advise you on which provisions to merge and which ones to leave.

Health Insurance

It is important to outline in the contract which party is responsible for covering health insurance. Many families get coverage through one spouse’s employer, which covers the entire family, however after a divorce , the spouse with family health insurance coverage can no longer cover the dependent spouse. Each party will need to come to some arrangement and decide who will cover the insurance costs.  In the agreement you need to outline who is responsible, what type of insurance you are covering and how long the coverage will be paid for.

Child Expenses

While agreements outline child support payments such as child benefits, parents often forget to consider other costs which fall outside of the normal child support payments.  In the contract it is recommended that you establish what costs both parties are responsible for. For example, costs that may be shared between each party are education costs, medical care, school trips, hobbies and extracurricular activities. This is one of the biggest disputes that arise between each party once the contract has been finalised, so it is vital that you consider other expenses before you sign.

Signing on the dotted line

Separation Agreements may have specific responsibilities that may be difficult to change once finalised. Therefore, it is important to consult a divorce solicitor before signing. A divorce solicitor will be able to tell you what your rights are, and will be able to notice any blips in the agreement that they believe to be unfair or legally incorrect. Consulting a solicitor may save you time and money in the future, should you wish to try and alter or appeal the agreement.

For professional legal advice on Separation Agreements, visit http://www.bbc-law.co.uk