What is mediation?
It can be challenging to navigate the emotional and practical issues following a relationship breakdown, especially when children are involved. For some, this is their first experience of separation and they are suddenly faced with a number of decisions that will affect their future: who will the children live with? What will happen with money? What will happen to the family home?
Most people in this situation do not know where to start or what options are available. Some also have the mistaken belief that divorce requires a painful, lengthy and expensive court case when in fact this is rarely the case. Usually the majority of cases can be settled through solicitor negotiation or using mediation.
Family mediation is when an independent, professionally trained mediator or mediators do their best to assist a couple in negotiating and agreeing mutually acceptable terms. Mediation be used to discuss issues such as:
- Arrangements for children
- Child maintenance payments
- Division of assets such as what to do with the family house, savings, pension, debts etc
- Who is going to start formal divorce proceedings and on what basis
- Wider family issues such as children keeping in touch with their grandparents, stepfamilies, or in-laws.
The use of mediation is also an attempt by the parties to avoid high legal fees as generally the mediator’s fees are a set price and are met by the parties in equal shares. More importantly it encourages those taking part in mediation to make their own informed decisions about what is best for them, their children and their families.
Each party can take separate legal advice from a family solicitor throughout the mediation process so they can feel confident in discussing the issues with the other party. The solicitor can also draft the requisite legal document at the end of the process so a legal contract is formed between the parties reflecting the mutually agreed terms they have reached.
For anyone experiencing a separation, getting legal advice early and discussing all the options available can be invaluable. Contact our family team on 01473 611 211 and find out about our fixed price consultation.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.