Mediation is a method of resolving issues that may arise on the breakdown of a relationship. In mediation, both of you are helped by a mediator to look for your own solutions. It is a process that provides an alternative to going to court. Increasingly, people use family mediation to resolve a host of family problems, such as disputes between a parent and child or contact with grandchildren in addition to financial disagreements.
How does divorce mediation work?
The process involves both of you explaining your concerns and needs to each other in the presence of a qualified family mediator in a neutral environment. Mediation can be used to discuss a range of issues following separation, for example, it can be used to reach financial settlements or used to discuss child arrangements. The mediator is impartial, which means that they cannot give advice, only provide information. They are there to facilitate a settlement by assisting you both. The mediator does not make decisions or impose a settlement. The mediator will help you work through options, ‘reality check’ your proposals and will ensure that there is not a power imbalance in the negotiations.
Through family mediation, you will both have the opportunity to improve your communication and chances of long-term co-operation, which is essential where there are children. The mediator controls the process and you will both retain control of the decisions made. There is always full financial disclosure if the mediation relates to financial issues.
If mediation breaks down, what is said cannot be used in court later. This does not apply to factual information given during the mediation process, such as details of income and property. However, it would cover negotiations and offers of settlement.
The mediator will record any understanding in a memorandum of understanding, which is signed by both of you and the mediator. It is not legally binding. This means that it cannot be enforced in court unless you both decide to make it a court order. You each have the freedom to find another way of dealing with the dispute at any time. Mediation does not generally remove the need for legal advice.
Benefits of family mediation
- Generally, more cost-effective and quicker than going to court;
- Mediation is a flexible process that can be used to work out a variety of disputes;
- It can help to reduce tension, anger and misunderstanding between you;
- Can be used at any time, whether or not you’ve seen a solicitor and proceedings have begun;
- Confidentiality – the mediator will not pass information on unless you both agree. However, if it appears that someone has been seriously hurt, or is at risk, the mediator may alert the police or social services.
Family law arbitration
People use family law arbitration to reach agreement on money and property issues following the end of a relationship. The main benefit of arbitration is the flexibility it gives you to resolve disputes quickly, privately and without the need to go to court.
How does family law arbitration work?
In most cases, you and your former partner will choose an arbitrator together. However, if you are unable to agree, the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators (ILFA) will select a suitable arbitrator for you, based on your specific needs.
Your arbitrator will deal with your case from start to finish, and will arrange the process according to your preferences; for example, you can decide where and when any hearings take place and how you want to share the details of your finances.
At the end of the process, the arbitrator makes a final decision known as an ‘award’, which is legally binding. The arbitrator can also make temporary awards during the process, such as maintenance payments or the disclosure of more information.
The final award must be made reasonably soon after the process has finished. It has to be in writing and explain the reasons behind the decision. You can also ask for an enforceable court order to reflect the terms of the award.
Generally, the people involved share the cost of arbitration between them, although there are no definitive rules. Ultimately, it is down to you and your former partner to agree who will cover the arbitrator’s fees, venue hire, etc.
There are some situations where divorce arbitration might not be suitable, for example, if a couple cannot agree to use arbitration, or if there is a risk that your former partner might try to hide their assets. However, these situations are rare and for most people with outstanding financial issues, arbitration is a useful alternative to going to court.
How does collaborative law work?
You will each appoint your own lawyer and everyone meets face to face to negotiate with the assistance of the lawyers. You and your partner remain in control of the process with your lawyers there to provide you with expert legal advice as you go.
The most important thing about collaborative family law is that you both need to agree to be part of the process – if you do not then it is not the solution for you. You will then need to appoint one of our collaboratively trained lawyers. We will contact your partner’s lawyer to suggest the use of collaborative law and if they agree, we can begin.
We will prepare you for what to expect at the meetings, usually known as ‘four-way’ meetings (you, your partner and the two lawyers). At the first meeting, you will sign an agreement called a participation agreement that ensures you both understand your commitment to working through your problems together without going to court. You will discuss each person’s objectives, create an agenda for the next meeting and agree on how to share each of your financial information.
In the following meetings, you will deal with one another’s concerns and priorities. You will be able to enlist experts to assist with a wide range of issues such as financial planning and pensions. The meetings should enable you both to reach an agreement on financial division, arrangements for your children and divorce.
At the final meeting, all parties will sign an agreement detailing what has been decided.
Frequently Asked Questions
Usually, it is much quicker than going to court. There are no court timetables to work to so each of you and your ability to reach an agreement will determine the length of time taken.
Please also see the following useful websites:
Generally, it is much quicker than going to court. There are no court timetables to work to so you each determine the length of time taken.
If you cannot reach an agreement, both of you will need to instruct new lawyers and it is likely that court proceedings will ensue.
Please also see the following useful websites: