Mediation is a non court based way for couples to resolve disputes about finances and/or their children.

A mediator is neutral and, although he or she may be a lawyer, does not provide legal advice.

Mediation is voluntary and confidential. However, if the parties are discussing finances there will need to be full and frank disclosure of their finances and this is not confidential, although any settlement negotiations resulting from such disclosure will continue to be.

The couple attend together with the mediator. The process focuses on the future, exploring options with the parties.

The parties have an opportunity to highlight what is important for them.

Both parties will have an opportunity to speak and the mediator will ensure that there is no power imbalance.

Some mediators are trained to meet children.

Mediation sessions generally last between 1.5 and 3 hours. A typical case requires between 3 and 6 sessions.

At the end of a successful mediation, the mediator prepares a memorandum of understanding. This is a document setting out the parties’ proposals and details of any agreement reached. The parties would then generally consult their respective solicitors and instruct them to prepare a consent order which is then sent to the court.

Margaret Kelly is a trained Mediator.