Family Mediation – How to Guide
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We are joining Resolution in supporting the Family Mediation Council’s ‘Mediation Week’ which runs from 18th January 2021 to 22nd January 2021. At Poole Alcock, we recognise that our clients need a wide variety of options to help navigate the tumultuous process of a family breakdown. Mediation is one of these many options, this guide provides a helpful summary of the process for those looking to mediate.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent, neutral third party called a mediator aims to help the disputing parties’ come to an agreed settlement. It is often used as an alternative to court proceedings in the first instance. At any time during ongoing proceedings parties’ can ask the court to pause their case so that they can attempt to mediate.
Mediation is just one of the many types of alternative dispute resolution. Other types include but are not limited to: arbitration, negotiation, early neutral evaluation and expert determination. All forms of alternative dispute resolution aim to help parties’ settle their differences without having to attend court.
Family Mediation can be split into three groups: Sole Mediation, Anchor Mediation and Co-mediation. Sole mediation aims to facilitate the parties’ discussions in a way that allows the individuals to eventually reach a mutual agreement about their case. It involves the instruction of a single mediator to moderate the discussion between the parties’. Similarly, Co-mediation involves two mediators who combine their expertise to help facilitate discussion between the parties’. Finally, Anchor Mediation combines Sole and Co-mediation, with a single mediator conducting parts of the mediation and with another joining temporarily or permanently for other parts. This article will focus on Sole Mediation as it is currently the most common form of mediation for family matters.
The process of a mediation will vary slightly from case to case depending upon the facts, the complexity of the issues and the natures of the parties’. This is not a bad thing and it is one of the reasons mediation is looked upon so favourably. It allows parties’ to step away from the more ridged court process, whilst still providing an environment in which parties’ can attempt to settle matters.
There are four key stages that most family mediations go through:
In Family law you are legally required to consider mediation before applying to the court. To do so you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). A MIAM is a meeting with a qualified mediator in which they assess the suitability of mediation as a vehicle to help resolve the dispute. They will also provide the parties’ with more information about the mediation process or any other non-court alternatives the parties’ may want to look into.
There are exemptions to the requirement to attend a MIAM, some of these include:
However, if you do not meet any of the exemptions and it is established that mediation would be a suitable way forward then you will be required to engage in attending a MIAM, before making a court application.
There are many advantages to using the Mediation process. It can be quicker, more cost-effective and more flexible than court proceedings. It allows parties’ to discuss their issues in a more informal and less confrontational manner. It is also a process that better preserves the ability for people to rebuild already tenuous relationships in the future.
With that being said, Mediation is not appropriate in all cases and you should always speak to your solicitor about what is right for your case. However, if Mediation is deemed suitable for your case, it is an excellent tool for helping to resolve family disputes and parties’ should approach the process with open minds and a desire to reach agreement outside of court.