Family Law

Is family mediation right for me?

Family mediation is a useful alternative to the courts for divorcing couples. It can save time, money and stress, whilst providing an out-of-court solution that both halves of a couple agree is fair.

The government has thrown their weight behind this solution, although they have stopped short of making it compulsory. Nevertheless, it is proving to be an increasingly popular method of sorting out disputes surrounding custody, finances or the division of assets.

What is family mediation?

Family mediation involves both halves of a couple attending meetings with a professional mediator. In a calm and relaxed environment, the three of them will thrash out the terms and conditions of their divorce.

Professional mediators are trained to be completely unbiased and are able to offer useful advice which can prevent couples from having to go through the stress of a courtroom battle.

If a couple is able to agree terms through mediation sessions, they will be drafted into a summary for the couple’s solicitors to run the rule over and, ultimately, a legally binding document can be produced.

Mediation sessions allow divorcing couples to separate their assets at a much cheaper cost. It can also speed up the divorce process quite dramatically. The government is happy for court schedules to be freed up and separating couples are generally over the moon if their divorce is made quite a bit easier.


Unfortunately, family mediation is not for everyone. Both halves of a couple have to agree to attend mediation sessions and be willing to listen to their mediator’s advice. Those who are too stubborn to do this will be unlikely to come to an agreement and are ultimately wasting their time and money. Cases which involve domestic violence or heavy drug use are unlikely to be suitable for mediation sessions.

It’s also worth noting that mediators are unable to offer legal advice, meaning it is often appropriate to seek help from a solicitor throughout the case. This ensures that both halves of a couple understand all the topics that are discussed and are fully aware of the implications of agreeing with the mediator.

If either half of the couple is looking to get one over on their spouse and ‘win’ the verdict, then mediation is unlikely to prove effective. These sessions are only for those who are looking for an amicable divorce.

The future

One of the major criticisms of family mediation is that it encourages those who would probably clean up in the courts to settle. For some, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It would appear that this was a boundary to making family mediation compulsory.

Nevertheless, family justice minister Lord McNally is adamant that mediation will play an even bigger role when settling family disputes in the future.

In 2013, he told a Family Mediation Council conference that their “time is now” and that they have a “once in a generation opportunity” to raise the profile of their profession.

So, regardless of whether it is made compulsory, it could be a safe bet that we could witness more and more couples divorcing outside of court in the future.


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.