Family Mediation Solicitors
When disputes arise during the breakdown of a marriage, family mediation is one of the effective methods to resolve important issues relating to finances, properties and children. Our family mediation solicitors always aim to achieve a prompt settlement for our clients using non-confrontational methods, such as family mediation, with court being the last possible resort. We tactfully explore all outcomes for resolving your unique situation and are committed to helping you achieve the best possible result.
To book an initial consultation with our expert family mediation solicitors in London, simply call 020 3709 8975 or complete our online enquiry form.
What is Family Mediation?
Family mediation is a non-court based way for separated/separating couples to resolve disputes about finances and/or their children. Mediation is voluntary and confidential. However, if the parties are discussing finances (particularly how to divide up the assets between them on separation, divorce or civil partnership dissolution), there will need to be a full and complete disclosure of their finances, but such disclosure is not confidential, although any settlement negotiations resulting from such disclosure will continue to be confidential.
All discussions in the mediation are private and can only be referred to outside the mediation if both parties agree. When both parties know discussions are private this lends itself to a full and frank sharing of ideas, aspirations and concerns. This can pave the way for an agreement to be reached.
Family mediation can be particularly effective when dealing with the arrangements for children (including with whom they will live as their primary carer and the level of contact they will have with the other parent, whether the children will spend equal time with each parent, arrangements for their schooling – choice of school and if applicable payment of school fees – and financial support for them).
Mediation is not for everybody, but it is a good option for many. It is important that both parties feel safe and supported during mediation. Therefore, before the family mediation process starts, the mediator will assess whether there are any safety concerns and whether the couple and their issues are suitable for mediation.
How Does Family Mediation Work?
Because the parties cannot be compelled to mediate, each will have to agree to the process and to the mediator who will be asked to assist them to reach an agreement. The mediator must be neutral and, although he or she may be a lawyer, does not provide legal advice.
The mediator will than facilitate the discussion and negotiation between the couple, and can direct that the requisite full disclosure is provided and the documents/financial information understood by the parties. Mediation can take place both before and after court proceedings have been commenced.
The mediation process focuses on the future and should not be a re-hash of the problems and issues that led the couple to the point of separation (which is what couples counselling is for). The mediator will attempt to explore options for settlement with the parties. The couple meet together with the mediator.
Usually the parties will sit in the same room with a mediator, although in some cases ‘shuttle mediation’ can be undertaken – where the parties sit in separate rooms and the mediator shuttles back and forth between the rooms to relay offers/options etc – but this is not encouraged.
During the family mediation process the parties will highlight what is important to them and with the help of the mediator will explore options to reach a provisional agreement. The provisional agreement is written up by the mediator (the Memorandum of Understanding).
Some mediators are trained to meet children and this could be very helpful where the parties really need to ‘hear’ what their children are thinking and feeling without the passion and emotion and allegations of manipulation if one or other of them tried to do this directly with them. Mediation sessions generally last between 1.5 and 3 hours, but timing is pretty much up to the couple, who are in charge of the process. The schedule for meetings is set at the parties’ convenience and an agenda is prepared before each meeting to ensure, in so far as is possible, matters important to both parties, and issues that are immediate as well as long term are looked at.
The Advantages of Family Mediation
It is voluntary and usually entered into in good faith in order to resolve matters out of court. Both parties need to be willing to attend mediation as it is a completely voluntary process. This means that anyone who attends mediation is there under their own steam and that is a great positive for the success of the process.
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. Decision making is in the hands of the couple. The range of solutions is more far reaching and flexible than what is on offer in court.
As a result, the process can be more creative than in the court arena as the parties may agree things that a court could not order (eg a cohabitant with no legal right to a share of the equity in the ‘family home’ receiving a lump sum payment for themselves). The mediator is neutral. (S)he most certainly does not give legal advice, so neither party is left feeling that the mediator is on the other party’s side.
Parties are encouraged to seek legal advice during the course of the mediation. Many couples successfully resolve issues through mediation and find that this stands them in good stead for future communication especially where there are children.
Do I Need a Solicitor For Family Mediation?
If the parties are dealing with finances, the solicitor will be able to assist a party with the disclosure and review of documents. He or she can offer advice on the law and the approach likely to be taken by the court if the matter were to be determined by a judge, rather than by agreement.
Settlement options can be explored with the solicitor and proposals formulated to then advance in mediation. Sometimes, the solicitors for each party can be invited to attend a mediation session with their clients.
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.
How Much Does Family Mediation Cost?
The starting point is that the costs of family mediation are met equally by the parties, but the parties can agree to a different arrangement.
A typical case requires between 3 and 6 sessions. If the parties would like to complete the mediation in a day with their solicitors present this is possible if the mediator, having spoken to the parties’ lawyers, agrees that this would give the mediation a good chance of success. It is also possible to have family mediation where the parties are not present in the same room and the mediator moves from one room to the other. The extra time involved in this type of mediation would however result in extra cost.
Broadly, the costs could range from £1,500 to £5,000 plus vat, depending on the number of meetings with the mediator.
At Josiah-Lake Gardiner, Margaret Kelly is a very experienced mediator, who would be able to assist couples in this regard. If instructing one of our expert family mediation solicitors to work with you alongside the mediation process, there is really no straightforward answer to this question. Much of the costs will depend on the issues being addressed at mediation (whether financial provision on separation for you and any children and/or arrangements for the ongoing care of the children or simply the drafting of a consent order to reflect the agreement set out in the memorandum of understanding) and the length of time it takes to conclude matters.
Broadly, an out of court settlement of this nature could cost between £2,000 and £5,000 plus vat. A more complex matter could cost up to and in rare cases more than £10,000 plus vat. At an initial meeting, we would be able to give a more definitive idea of likely costs.
What Happens If We Are Unable To Reach An Agreement In Mediation?
If family mediation is not successful or is not something that the parties are willing to consider, there are further options for the spouses/civil partners to consider with regard to resolving matters out of court. These include the collaborative law process and direct face to face negotiating between the spouses/civil partners and their lawyers at round table meetings.
However, if family mediation has been unsuccessful, these other non-court options are likely to fail also. An application to court would then be required and a decision then made by a judge at a final hearing.
In respect of the division of financial assets on divorce or dissolution, the judge will strive to decide what the fairest way to divide the assets is but arrangements regarding the children (in terms of their housing) have the highest priority.
The way in which a family’s assets are divided on divorce or dissolution is complex and a whole range of factors are taken into account as follows:
(a) The income, earning capacity (including any increase in such capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a spouse/civil partner to take steps to acquire), property and other financial resources which each spouse/civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(b) The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse/civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(c) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage/civil partnership;
(d) The age of each spouse/civil partner and the duration of the marriage/civil partnership (including relevant seamless pre-marriage/registration cohabitation);
(e) Any physical or mental disability of either of the spouses/civil partners;
(f) The contributions which each spouse/civil partner has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
(g) The conduct of each spouse/civil partner if in the opinion of the court it would be inequitable to disregard such (note though that this does not mean behaviour such as adultery and would need to be of a financial nature);
(h) The value of any benefit (including pension benefits) which the spouse/civil partner will lose the chance to acquiring by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage or civil partnership. In respect of arrangements for the children, the outcome from the court is intended to be the one that is considered to be in the best interests of the children, having regard to the information before the court, including the ‘voice’ of the children as captured in any report ordered by the court to assist with the ultimate decision making.
Recognised Family Mediation Solicitors In London
Our experienced family mediation solicitors at Josiah-Lake Gardiner will guide you through the mediation process to enable you to reach a final out of court settlement with your partner if it is possible to do so.
Our experienced team of family mediation solicitors will always endeavour to minimise the emotional distress of relationship breakdown on all members of the family, with particular emphasis on assisting clients to minimise as much as it is possible to do the emotional impact on any children of the family.
It may be that you and your partner will, with our help, be able to secure an out of court agreement, but if you do have to go to court, our expert team will be by your side to guide, advise and assist you at every stage. In this regard, we have been named one of the UK’s leading Family Law firms by the independent legal guide The Legal 500 for a number of years.
For more information you should make an appointment with one of our expert family mediation solicitors in London to discuss your particular circumstances.