What is mediation in divorce?

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The divorce process can be emotional and legally complex. When going through the process, you will be introduced to a range of new legal terminology. One of which is “mediation.” So, exactly what is mediation in divorce? Is it something you are required to do?

In simple terms, the mediation process is used to help separating couples resolve disputes and reach an agreement on various issues. These issues may include such as financial arrangements, property division, and child arrangements, without going to court. The process is designed to be less adversarial and more cost-effective than traditional litigation. It emphasises cooperation and communication between the parties involved.

When considering divorce, it may be advisable for you to seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer to help you work through the process.

What is mediation in divorce?

Mediation is a private and optional process for couples to resolve their disagreements with the help of a mediator. It is a way for couples to talk and work out their issues. Mediation is not mandatory and is kept confidential.

Couples can choose to use mediation as a way to find common ground and reach agreements. Mediators do not make decisions but facilitate discussions within mediation sessions to help parties reach their own agreements.

Mediation covers disputes related to financial arrangements, property division, child custody and other practical issues arising from separation and divorce.

Participation in mediation is generally voluntary. However, is strongly encouraged by the legal system in England and Wales.

Before filing for a court order regarding finances or children, individuals are usually required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to explore if mediation could be a viable option.

The process of mediation in divorce

Initial Meeting (MIAM):

Both parties will be required to attend a MIAM. This can either be separately or together. During this session, the mediator explains how mediation works, assesses the couple’s situation, and determines if mediation is suitable.

Parties will not be required to attend a MIAM in certain circumstances. This includes instances where there have been allegations of domestic abuse.

Mediation Sessions:

If mediation proceeds, several sessions are usually needed. During these sessions, parties work through their disputes with the family mediator’s guidance.

Decision Making:

Any agreements reached are usually recorded in a “Memorandum of Understanding.” It is important to note that this document is not legally binding. However, it can be made so through subsequent legal processes. Parties may wish to ask the Court to draft a consent order to make the agreement legally binding.

The benefits of mediation

Mediation offers several advantages, not only in terms of cost and time but also in emotional well-being and long-term outcomes for both parties and their families.

Cost-Effectiveness

Mediation generally involves fewer legal fees than court proceedings. Since the focus is on cooperative negotiation, there’s less need for extensive legal preparation and court fees.

Mediation helps in streamlining the process of dispute resolution. This reduces the financial strain on both parties, allowing resources to be allocated more effectively post-divorce.

Faster Resolution

Mediation sessions can be scheduled around the availability of both parties. this helps parties to avoid the lengthy waiting times often associated with court dates.

The direct negotiation between parties can lead to quicker resolutions. this is because decisions do not need to be filtered through legal representatives and judges.

Control and Customisation

Mediation allows couples to create agreements that specifically address their unique circumstances, rather than adhering to more generic legal judgments.

Both parties have a say in the final agreement. This helps to ensure that the outcome is mutually acceptable and fair, which is not always the case in court decisions.

Confidentiality

Unlike court proceedings, which are public, mediation sessions are confidential. This privacy can be crucial for individuals who value discretion regarding their financial arrangements or personal circumstances.

Confidentiality encourages open communication, as parties can discuss matters without fear of public disclosure.

Reduced Conflict and Stress

The mediation process encourages cooperative problem-solving. This can significantly reduce the emotional tension and conflict often associated with divorce.

Mediation can have a positive impact on the well-being of any children involved. This is done by reducing conflict and fostering amicable agreements. This aids in minimising the stress and uncertainty they face during their parents’ separation.

Better Long-term Relationships

The skills learned during mediation, such as effective communication and negotiation, can improve the long-term relationship between the parties. This is especially important when co-parenting is involved.

Successfully mediated agreements can set a precedent for future interactions, helping parties to resolve future disputes more amicably.

Legally Binding Agreements

While the agreements reached in mediation are not automatically legally binding, they can be made so through a consent order. This gives the flexibility to reach mutual agreements in mediation and then seek legal ratification.

How much does mediation cost?

The cost of mediation in divorce varies depending on where you live, the complexity of the case, the number of sessions required, and the mediation service provider.

Initial Costs

Before starting the mediation process, both parties usually attend a MIAM. The cost for a MIAM can range from approximately £50 to £120 per person, but fees vary by provider.

Mediation Session Costs

The cost for each mediation session (usually lasting 1-2 hours) typically ranges between £100 and £250 per person, per session. Again, these rates can vary significantly based on the mediator’s experience and location.

The total cost of mediation will depend on the number of sessions required. Most disputes are resolved within 3 to 5 sessions, but complex cases may require more.

Additional Costs

If you reach an agreement, the mediator can draft a summary of proposals (often called a “Memorandum of Understanding”) and a financial statement if relevant. The cost for document preparation can range from £100 to £500, depending on the complexity.

It is advisable to seek legal advice alongside mediation. Legal fees vary widely depending on the solicitor’s rates. Some individuals may only require a solicitor to review the final agreement, while others may want more comprehensive advice throughout the process.

If you want to make the outcomes of mediation legally binding, there will be additional legal costs for preparing and filing the necessary paperwork. Court fees for filing a consent order in a financial matter are £53, but solicitor fees for preparing the order will vary.

Legal Aid

For those who cannot afford mediation, Legal Aid may be available to cover the costs of mediation and associated legal advice. Eligibility for Legal Aid depends on your financial circumstances and the details of your case.

How can Expert Family Law assist?

Expert Family Law have a panel of divorce solicitors who can advise and assist on any aspect of your case. They can provide advice on whether they believe your case would benefit from mediation.

Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors. If you contact us, we may pass your case onto a solicitor from our panel. Our panel firms pay fees to contribute to the upkeep of our website.

Each solicitor we work with is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

Whether you are going through a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, our panel of family law solicitors will provide pragmatic legal advice and assistance.

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