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.
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.