Exploring mediation – you don’t have to endure an ugly separation

If you’ve decided that divorce is the only way forward for your relationship, but are struggling to convince your partner/ex-partner to feel the same way, don’t panic – it doesn’t mean you have to endure a really ugly separation. You’ve probably already consulted with one of the divorce lawyers Farnham, Glasgow or wherever you live has to offer… why not talk to them about undergoing mediation of some kind?

Mediation sounds as if it might be scary, but it’s really not. It can do wonders for couples who perhaps aren’t entering into divorce with the same views; maybe one person doesn’t want to split up, or is determined to make the process as difficult as possible. At best, allowing a neutral body to help you air your views could help persuade the other person that this is the best route forward. At worst, it could at least make the process of splitting assets and custody of children a little easier.

So, what else do you need to know about mediation?

The mediator
Typically, the person assigned to mediate your case will be a trained, non-biased negotiator; an expert in viewing the facts and helping you both find the best route forward. He or she will know the full details of each person’s case and their feelings, but will have no strong leaning towards either party. If there are financial details to be worked out, they will have full access to those too; helping them help you find a path that keeps you both financially stable – as far as possible, anyway.

Mediators can also help both sides see the benefit of opting for a fair, well-thought-through custody agreement; explaining that it’s about what’s best for the children, ultimately. They are experts in tackling commonly-held arguments, such as: “Well, I brought them up whilst you went out and worked…”, or “Well, I’ve paid all of the bills for the last decade…”; something which can prove invaluable during such a painful process.

Will it work for me?
If you’re struggling through a difficult divorce, it’s probably a good idea to enter into mediation. It will help you both reach mutually-agreeable terms; something which sending lawyers’ letters back and forth can’t always promise. Dealing with each other through your legal representatives can cause anger and resentment; feelings which will only made the process a lot harder. Instead, mediation forces you both to sit in the same room and hash out any problems. Often, you’ll find that it’s a lot harder to sound off or get really angry when you’re sat in front of each other. You may be able to approach the situation with a clearer head; especially when you feel supported by your mediator.

Is it confidential?
Anything said in front of your partner/ex-partner and the mediator is entirely confidential. The mediator is not at liberty to pass on any information to a third party legal representative unless you give them strict permission to do so. What’s more, anything you say in the presence of your mediator cannot be used in court as evidence against one party. There’s only one real exception to this rule: if the mediator believes either of you or any of your children are in danger as a result of any anger you may feel, then they may deem it necessary to stop proceedings and inform the appropriate body (i.e. the police).

Justice minister McNally pledges extra £10 million for divorces

Family justice minister Lord McNally has pledged an extra £10 million towards helping people bring their marriage to an end using mediation. The money is set to be used to fund extra mediation services, which are often used to avoid couples having to fight in court.

Mediation is a useful tool which can avoid upsetting and costly court battles, and might be appropriate for situations involving children or where there are a variety of different assets to split – property or cash for instance.

In a statement the Ministry of Justice said that the additional funding may help couples to avoid the “traumatic and divisive effect of courtroom battles”.

Lord McNally commented: “Going through a divorce or separation can be an emotionally draining and stressful time for everyone involved, especially for children. All too often money is wasted on expensive and traumatic court hearings that can take far too long to resolve – and that is why we want to help people to use mediation, a quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes.”

According to figures quoted by the Ministry of Justice the average cost incurred when resolving property and finance disputes in a divorce is around £500 – this figure increases to approximately £4,000 if these separation issues are settled in the courts.

As well as this, the average mediated case is resolved in a quarter of the time of a non-mediated dispute.

It’s positive that steps are being taken to resolve divorces in a way which save time, heartache and money for both sides. Many couples who have taken the painful decision to legally part ways may not realise that mediation is an option, but many law firms will offer it before pursuing a court resolution.

If you are interested in mediation then it is vital you opt for a legal professional with the knowledge and experience necessary to deal with complex cases. The most skilled mediators are those who strike the balance between professional and personal, bringing both legal skills and a sense of concern to their clients.

Hattons Solicitors have a dedicated team of  family law solicitors specialising in family law including cohabitation agreements, divorce law and separation.

My Spouse and I are looking to separate, however we do not wish to go through with the whole divorce procedure just yet, is there another way we can separate without going through this?

In Divorce Law the term divorce means that a marriage has been irretrievably broken down. It may be that in your situation this is not the case and you are not looking for a final decision but rather an agreement not to carry out your marital obligations or to benefit from your marriage in any way until you make a decision whether to officially divorce or not.

If this is the case you should write a separation agreement. A separation agreement is not a divorce; it is merely an order of court which dissolves the obligations or benefits brought on by a marriage. In such cases you and your spouse will agree beforehand about any financial agreements, the children and the planned divorce. This agreement is binding on you and your spouse until the divorce commences during which time the courts will make an order confirming the terms of the separation agreement.

If you are seeking to carry out a separation agreement, it is advisable that both you and your spouse employ the services if a divorce lawyer or family solicitor before agreeing to any of the terms you intend to set out in the agreement. The separation agreement identifies the parties to the agreement and confirms that both you and your spouse have received legal advice on the matter. Both parties will then agree in the separation agreement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that they are planning their divorce.

It is prudent at this stage to get legal advice on your division of your matrimonial assets, such as your finances and child support. This will make it easier for you to carry out an uncontested divorce when you wish to go through with the procedure. It should be noted however that a court may change your separation agreement if it considers it to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, if it is not in the child’s best interests.

For further legal advice on divorce and separation agreements, you are advised to speak to a divorce solicitor or family law solicitor. They can answer your questions and help you to get through this difficult time.