The advantages of mediation to resolve a family dispute

Mediation provides an important alternative to resolving a dispute through Court proceedings: it can be particularly effective at reducing conflict and animosity within a family by having the assistance of an independent third party: i.e. the mediator.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process that you and your former partner attend in order to discuss your problems and see if a solution can be reached.  You can mediate at any time: in fact, if you intend to issue financial or children proceedings, you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) first, unless a valid exemption applies. A MIAM is an information session with a mediator, but is not mediation itself.  It is aimed at informing you of your options and helping you decide on how best to proceed in order to resolve the issues.

The mediator will facilitate discussion between you and your former partner.  As a neutral party, they will allow each of you to talk about your views and communicate what is important. Talking with each of you separately, they can help both participants to see the other person’s perspective and encourage you to find common ground. In many cases, this helps a couple to agree a solution that is acceptable to both parents and meets the needs of any children.

What types of disputes can mediation help?

Mediation can be helpful in resolving a number of different types of family disputes, including:-

  • disputes about where your children will live;
  • how much time your children will spend with each of you;
  • disagreement over a child’s upbringing, such as which school they should go to;
  • medical treatment for your children; and
  • the finances (whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabitees).

What are the advantages?

Mediation offers several advantages over going to Court:-

  • Understanding your family needs. No one knows your family’s needs better than you. Reaching a solution through mediation means you can tailor arrangements that will best fit you and your family’s requirements.  For example, you can consider the details of each of your weekly routines, such as who will take the children to their swimming lessons or football matches at the weekend.  You can also suit your own needs if, for example, one of you has irregular working hours.
  • Avoids a court forcing a solution on your family. If you are in Court proceedings and you cannot reach a solution, the Judge will make a decision for you: essentially, you will lose control over what the outcome is. Mediation allows you and your former partner to exercise a greater degree of control on the outcome of your matter.
  • More cost-effective. Mediation can result in significant cost savings. You and your former partner will only have one mediator’s fee to pay.  This is in contrast to both of you having to pay for your own legal advice. Further, as at the time of writing, for some disputes you may be entitled to a £500 mediation voucher.
  • More creative solutions. Quite often mediating couples will have more time and knowledge of their own circumstances to think up solutions that a Judge simply would not have the time for. Mediating couples can discuss all eventualities that concern them and come to an understanding as to how they can resolve each issue.

Does mediation work for everyone?

Mediation is not for everyone.  If you have suffered abuse from your partner, then you are unlikely to want to participate in a mediation process with them. A mediator can assess in the MIAM whether mediation is suitable.

Of course, mediation is voluntary: if your former partner is not willing to engage in mediation, you cannot force them to do so. However, mediation can be revisited in the future.

How we can help

If you are experiencing issues related to this topic or have any other queries around family law, please contact us.

Katherine Parker is a solicitor in the Family Department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.